The Marketers Are Invading

For years, everyone even tangentially involved in marketing has been telling companies that they need to reach out and meet their customers with social media. MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, whatever.  Engage, engage, engage. Let them know you're listening and get them talking, but control the message.

Well, congratulations to all us consultants, project managers and designers because, for better or for worse, the marketing guys are here.

 They're Here... (and they're very clever)

My wife and I recently resubscribed to cable TV after a couple years hiatus. (She's 8 months pregnant and insists it's now a necessity.) One of first commercials that really caught my attention was for the AmEx Rewards program. I've always thought their marketing was classy, and this commercial was no exception, but the tone was completely different than what it used to be. It seems more casual, approachable, and conversational. Throughout the 30-some seconds, tweets are shown about what customers (real or fake, I couldn't say) are spending their points on:

Ingenious. Not only are they "one of us" (a big departure from the My Life, My Card strategy a few years back), but all of our "friends" are excitedly talking about how awesome AmEx is!

Social Media Can Be Divisive

One of the very funniest commercials I've seen all year is for the Toyota Venza:

It's funny and it speaks to a very complex audience. Not only does it target a mature market that sees little-to-no value in Facebook, but it also taps into the more moderate social media user. You know -- normal people that don't find gratification in a number that attempts to quantify my social worth. (Yeah... I count myself among the second group described.)

One of the things I struggle with is the gamification of social media. I've mentioned it here before, but I really can't stand the fabrication of an online persona to win followers or friends. It's made me very distrustful. I don't hesitate to remove "friends" in Facebook, I've all but stopped using Twitter and I'm extremely wary of any type of "sponsored content". (The last applies to any kind of content provider, not just social media.)

Every Commercial Break is a Water Cooler Moment

I found one of my absolute favorite social media marketing developments on USA Network while watching Suits. (Great show -- totally worth your time.) Throughout the broadcast, there's a hashtag in the bottom left -- "#suits".

That's clever, right? Just like at a conference when the MC announces what everyone should be tweeting under, but without the need for contextual awareness. My mother wouldn't know what the hell a hashtag is, but it's unobtrusive and it looks like a pretty normal marketing bumper.

The really, really clever part though? During the commercial break, they'll prompt the viewers with question and repeat the hashtag -- "Should character X have done Y to Z?" They're telling us that we don't have to wait to talk about the show. Do it right now -- there's a minute to kill while the commercials play out...

Brilliant! Tell viewers how to talk about the show and prompt them with a question that stimulates a passionate response. Bingo bango: a ton of buzz that will feed back into the viewer numbers and people are sitting on the cough through the commercials. USA isn't just engaging their audience, they're telling us how to engage each other.

I think there's going to be a bad reaction when social media users get sick of having sharks in the pool with them, but the way it's unfolding is really interesting to watch.