Monday, February 11, 2008

And I heard 'em say...

Recently representatives from Kraft and Esurance have chimed in on a couple of blogs with their thoughts on blogging, social networking, and what role companies should play in these areas.

First, here's some of the comments that Kraft Brand Manager Ericka Gettman left to my recent Daily Fix post about Kraft's latest foray into blogging:
This was/is honestly about three people who feel passionate about their product and wanted to do something different to talk about it. We're more than happy to engage in dialogue here or any other forum. For real....Anyhow, definitely appreciate all the advice and support relative to our foray into blogging. We totally agree with the notion that a blog shouldn’t be a one-time deal, rather a continuous conversation. We started our Love My Philly blog last fall and the intent is to keep on blogging with people that are just as passionate about cream cheese as we are...I’m proud that Kraft has been supportive of our various initiatives and allowed us to experiment a bit. Only a sign of good things to come!!

And now these selected comments from Kristin Brewe, Esurance’s Director of Brand & Public Relations, left to this post by Chris about how Esurance isn't doing as much as they could to build social media/networking efforts around the popularity of its character Erin Esurance:
Our approach is a bit different than what you would like to see for Esurance for 3 important reasons (and they’re slightly inter-related too):

1) fan commitment
2) category constraint
3) our views on corporate and social

In terms of fans, we’re generally pretty happy when people make tributes to the character we’ve created and developed. (Admittedly, there’s some weird stuff out there, but with the Internet, that would happen no matter how many friends we have on MySpace. To any marketers who think they’re in control of a brand once you’ve launched a related meme in the public sphere in the Internet age, “Forget about it.”) The countless people who submit storylines, make art, write songs, create mash-ups, dress up as Erin, and contribute their creativity are what our brand’s all about. So making sure that we inspire public creativity is our main job, in terms of the social network side of things. (And that’s in addition to other important jobs, like sales.)

Within our category, we are more constrained than other businesses as a financial services provider, even though we have pushed the boundary a bit on the standard financial services image. For example: We can’t necessarily do auto-adds on MySpace, without vetting our friends personally. (e.g., Does any company want to find out that their company was friends with someone featured on “To Catch a Predator?” Doubtful.) Personally vetting friends on an app like MySpace takes time, and as one of the comments pointed out, that’s a resource, which can be hard to come by in any environment, but particularly a high growth one. I saw some great ideas above about being an expert on insurance, and also about having Erin engage in experiential marketing. Unfortunately on the first count, giving insurance advice is tough, as the product’s regulated, with strict rules about what can and cannot be said by whom. And, if we just went the experiential route without the insurance, it might be a dialogue that was slightly inappropriate for an auto insurance company to engage in. Those would obviously both be very doable if we were in cosmetics, however.

Which brings me to point #3– the appropriate factor for corporate/social. What’s appropriate in a social setting may not be appropriate in a corporate context, and vice versa. One of the reasons people have created social networks is to escape advertisers and mass messages. Though an anti-corporate vibe permeates our culture, it is more concentrated in online communities. People want to have dialogues with the circles they define, rather than have that intruded upon. Companies relentlessly pursue consumers (a word I hate, as it’s so passive!), and they perpetually invent ways to hide from us advertisers. Rather than continuing to push, shout, and chase, perhaps we advertisers should listen to that message and back off a bit, providing people with content that they can choose to peruse and adapt and mold so that, if and when they do decide to contribute to a brand’s meaning, that’s authentic, rather than merely something we paid for (an inauthentic connection). To us, that’s a social network, in the truest meaning of both words.

I want to comment on this more in a post tomorrow, but a couple of things struck me about the tone and what was said from both Kristin and Ericka. Granted, I didn't republish everything that each person said, so you can read Kristin's full comments here, and Ericka's here.

But just from reading these comments, do you see anything significant about the responses? I see a few stark contrasts, and was wondering if anyone else spotted the same things I did, or something else that I missed. Like I said I'll touch on this more tomorrow, but was interested in your thoughts.

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1 comment:

Chris Kieff said...


I see two companies that are seriously over estimating the impact of one individual in the social fabric. The crowd is wise and can disassociate random friends from corporate intentions.

And I see these companies also over estimating the investment of time and resources necessary to make Social Networking work.