I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what we really mean when we talk about social media. When is a marketer’s online activity truly social, and when is it not? An encounter with Cartier’s Love by Cartier MySpace page has given me reason to ponder.
In 2006, Cartier created the Love Charity Bracelet. For each bracelet purchased, a portion of the sale is donated to a select group of charities. This cause marketing effort has been executed annually, featuring a different set of charities each year. In 2008, the initiative is being publicized with a MySpace page, in addition to Cartier’s own dedicated microsite. Both are built around this year’s theme, “How far would you go for love?”, which is brought to life elegantly through the works of several Cartier-sponsored artists and musicians, and a series of 12 short films directed by Olivier Dahan (La Vie en Rose). There’s a link to the “Love Collection,” of course, although apparently only a purchase of the Love Bracelet results in a donation.
I guess we can’t blame Cartier for marketing their products at the same time they support social causes, and with up to $200, or 20%, of the purchase price going to charity, they aren’t being stingy. Still, I couldn’t quite get over a certain uncomfortable irony that Cartier, a luxury goods brand that, perhaps more than any other, we associate with the wealthiest people on the planet, is supporting such charities as Action Against Hunger and and SOS Children’s Villages. (Perhaps I’d be more comfortable with a charity for the families of injured diamond mine workers in South Africa.)
But I digress.
I was struck by the consistency of content, design and feel between the Love by Cartier MySpace page and the company’s Love Cartier microsite. With links enabling seamless connections between the two, I often didn’t know where I was and found myself looking to the address box to find out. From a branding point of view, this consistency makes perfect sense. But it begs the question, why have a MySpace page at all? What does the MySpace presence offer that’s different from the website, especially with regard to social and conversational dimensions — the exchange of thoughts, ideas and opinions that often characterize brand experiences in online communities like MySpace and Facebook?
To be sure, there are some limited social networking features on Cartier’s MySpace page. You can add it to your MySpace favorites, friends, or groups. You can email links to content. And you can post a comment. But that’s about it. Primarily it’s a multimedia presentation of the Cartier Love Collection initiative. Beautifully produced; noble, elegant and superbly polished like the brand it represents; simple and refined in its structure and navigation. An outstanding and rewarding digital execution, but not truly exemplifying the best of how brands can connect through the power of social networks and communities. Not that it really matters. I doubt the Cartier crowd spends a whole lot of time participating in online conversations. (But I could be wrong.)
You certainly can call Cartier’s MySpace initiative social in as far as it supports social causes. And that’s fine. Only it isn’t really “MySpace.” It’s “TheirSpace.”