Last week I blogged about the Manic Mommies’ “Sponsorship Spotlight” segment with Lisa from Quinny strollers. This week in Manic Mommies Episode 139, GM Saturn and the Manic Mommies have demonstrated again how brands can successfully engage in the social media space.
While attending the October 11th BlogHer event, Kristin and Erin talked with Steve from Saturn as he took them for a spin in the Saturn Vue Green Line hybrid. (Actually Erin did the driving.) Saturn is sponsoring regional BlogHer events around the country with their BlogHer Reach Out Tour. They’ve arranged carpools and provided cars for bloggers to make their way to the events. Then they offer information and test rides for interested bloggers at the event.
These are influential women bloggers, so supporting and building relationships that encourage them to spread positive word of mouth to their audiences makes sense. And as Steve from Saturn recognized, women control the lion’s share of the household budget and strongly influence the choice of high ticket items.
While talking with the Manic Mommies, Steve showed the same sensibility to the unique situation in which he was representing the Saturn brand. This was a chat, not a sales pitch. Like Lisa from Quinny, he made conversation, talked about Saturn like a friend might tell you about the car, joked, and was just genuinely charming. You got that he truly loved Saturn. The whole conversation was natural, fun and entertaining. Just as the Manic Mommies always are. Like Lisa, we didn’t know Steve’s title or position with Saturn. It wasn’t important.
The Exception that Proves the Rule
There’s another parenting podcast I love — MommyCast with Paige Heninger and Gretchen Vogelzang. I never miss an episode, I leave comments, and there’s even a picture of my parrot, Emil, on the MommyCast Facebook page. But as much as I love them, a couple of months ago they devoted a back-to-school episode to a conversation with one of their sponsors, Staples. It really got on my nerves, because it didn’t feel like a conversation, it felt like a sales pitch.
Andrew Schneider from Staples — he was the Sales and Marketing Director, or had some other, blah-blah title like that — simply lacked the wit, charm and personality to be effective in a social space like this. He felt like a fish out of water. He was stiff and and he talked like a salesman. I think he did the best that he could. But he just wasn’t the right person to be talking about his brand in the conversational setting of MommyCast. No doubt some of the MommyCast listeners heard about some good products and deals from Staples. But I wouldn’t be surprised if many of them simply switched off. It was so out of character with what we normally get from MommyCast. It was more like a half-hour commercial for Staples.
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Thinking about this, there are at least two ways I see brands engaging in social media. The first one is when a brand creates a community, or consumers create their own community around the brand. In either of these variations, the brand sets the tone and character and those that identify with the brand participate. Examples of this are fan pages or blogs, like Moleskinerie for Moleskin enthusiasts.
The other type is when brands are guests within communities that have a culture and character of their own — like the Manic Mommies or MommyCast. Here the brand walks a fine line. Marketers who join conversations within these communities must be true to the essence of the brand, but also behave appropriately to the particular community and situation in which they are appearing. That’s what Steve, from Saturn, and Lisa, from Quinny, both did so well. And their brands benefited as a result. The manager from Staples didn’t manage that very well, and his brand suffered.
In future, as more and more brands participate directly in online social communities, perhaps we’ll increasingly observe a new indespensible requirement for a job in the marketing department. Not only will the candidate have to exhibit marketing sense, but marketing sensibility as well.