Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Capessa: Community-empowerment, or deceptive marketing?

Capessa is an online community featuring blogs and message boards 'by women and for women', where women discuss health/family/money/career issues. The community is co-sponsored by Yahoo.

Now the problem I have is, the site is ALSO co-sponsored by Proctor and Gamble. And while Yahoo's sponsorship is clearly noted on the site, P&G's is not. At the very botton of the site in small print is this notation:"Capessa is produced by The ZiZo Group, Inc. for Procter & Gamble Productions, Inc." Also, P&G products are advertised on the site.

But perhaps most troubling to me is, P&G is monitoring the user's contributions to the forums, without telling them they are doing so. "This is not about selling products. It's about better understanding of consumers and learning about their needs and habits," P&G spokeswoman Robyn Schroeder explained. "The more we learn about these consumers, the more it will allow us to create better products for their needs."

So why not just tell them that?

Why not be upfront about your intentions and let community members know that P&G is co-sponsoring the site? Let the women that contribute know that P&G is becoming involved in the community as a way to help women get more information about issues that are important to them, and to learn from each other. And in return, P&G can explain that they will be able to better serve their customers' wants and needs, based on their contributions to Capessa.

Why not just tell the truth? Maybe I'm naive, but I think the community would not only accept your actions, but appreciate your efforts to learn more about them, while providing a service that benefits them.

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Kim Klaver said...

I think P&G specializes in deceptive marketing to women.

P&G's tactic of bribing women to talk up products to their friends without telling could lead to the same erosion of trust among friends.

They have SAID they use the women's friends network because word of mouth is the only trusted source of referrals left.

Since they're buying the women's recommendations, that word of mouth among women soon will no longer be trustworthy. No one will be certain of the motivation of the recommendation anymore - did they really love it, or get paid for it?

Post here:


I have a similar post lamenting AT&T's pitch in my phone bill today...no one tells how to be up front about the reason for the sudden recommendation.


Anonymous said...

"So why not just tell them that?"

Ah, from the mouths of babes as they say. I'm surprised with P&G actually as they've always (or for the most part) made good on their relationships/trust with customers.

Communities (the "benevolence factor") are very forgiving...when you're upfront with them. Maybe P&G feels that's letting go of too much control?

It does come across as highly deceptive, tho'. I'll think on it more--thanks for this.

Anonymous said...


I'm surprise at you. Let P&G spy on women. Maybe they can figure out what makes them tick and share the results with all of the males in the world ;-)


Tammy Allen said...

We should all email P&G and tell them to be upfront. I'm going to. When I started reading this blog I thought "hmm that's cool a womens' site" Now I'm just disappointed. Thanks for outing P&G Mack

Reshma Bachwani said...

Researching blog data is picking up as marketers realise that blogs are an excellent source of spontaneous and unsolicited opinion. Would reading these conversations in the blogosphere be tantamount to eve's dropping? What happens when bloggers find out that their opinions / ideas are being read and used without their permission?

SouthernQ said...

It does not take long for people to sniff out inauthentic promotion. If this site becomes a place for P&G to blatantly promote their products interest will wane quickly. It seems that unless third parties spontaneously start something like this, they are doomed to failure.

Agent Wildfire said...

It seems you've got the echo chamber rowing in one direction on this one Mack.

First of all, I don't know all the facts but not revealing their affiliation and letting Yahoo be front of centre allows the forum for people think there are dubious motives afoot here and is just bad sponsorship marketing. Given P&G's history of being the poster boy for word of mouth controversy, it does raise questions again.

However, I am getting tired of the "jingle" that says any brand that sponsors a community is wrong and any brand that attempts to generate and accelerate word of mouth on its brands is unethical.

If we let that same thinking prevail, I guess we'd be more than happy being interrupted increasingly by crummy TV, disingenuine product placement, nuisance pop-up and flyer ads that don't work,lack relevance to us and dismiss our involvement in the message.

There is also the notion of free will and the basic principles of word of mouth.

People don't need to be defended from themselves. Even though they should disclose their affiliations when they spread buzz on behalf of a company, they have a real choice in whether they want to participate and receive and we tend to undestimate as the "experts" - a consumer being able to distinguish between when they're hearing genuine referral and paid for buzz.

Southernq has it right. If P&G messes up here, people will leave in droves. People are savvy enough to recognize that the best word of mouth happens through a trusted network of friends, family, collagues and community members that share the same interest. If people lie or shill about a company's product, they rapidly become ineffective.

In this case, P&G can make a really good first impression through explicit sponsorship and product seeding and join the conversation through the monitoring and communciation that I presumed is planned as part of Capessa, the rest is in the community hands.

If you're right about P&G's ethics here, bad on them-they deserve to be lynched. I personally haven't seen enough here for that to be the case and unfortunately, I think the cranky pundits would just like it to be true so they could point more corporate ethical blood like Walmart, Sony and other fake blogs.

If mbusiness and arketing is ever going to improve through collaborating with consumers, we can't shoot all of them before they even get out of the traditonal mass marketing gates.

One Canuck's thoughts.

Mack Collier said...

"I'm surprise at you. Let P&G spy on women. Maybe they can figure out what makes them tick and share the results with all of the males in the world ;-)"

Good point Eric, but what would they charge? Being a 'Z-List' blogger doesn't pay as well as I thought it would ;)

Agent that was actually the point I was trying to make, that P&G should be upfront about their affiliation, besides the fact that's it's the right think to do, but from a business sense, I think the visitors to Capessa would appreciate it. I think if they just told the truth, said that they are providing the forum for women because they want to get a better idea of how to relate to them, that these women would positively respond.

But I guess so many companies still think that marketing requires a level of deception. I prefer to think that's an empowerment tool, but I've been accused of being naive before ;)

Anonymous said...

What surprises me is that you think that P&G is the only one using there online community to do customer data mining. I am sorry to say that sites are built all the time to data mine user data. You can think the sites as large as I-village are not doing the same things.

It is the focus groups of the future.

Anonymous said...

Read on...

“The creation of Capessa follows P&G’s mission to improve the lives of the world’s consumers in meaningful ways, every day. This website provides women with relevant information that connects to their specific interests and adds value to their lives.”

P&G anticipates that this online community will allow them to learn more about the interests and product needs of women. P&G considers Capessa as a way to better understand digital space, as well as how the company can be more relevant in the lives of their consumers. - Jim Stengel, Global Marketing Office, P&G"