I’ve read far too many articles and white papers about how brands should approach social media. Most make the topic more complicated than necessary—most likely in order to suggest that they have some secret sauce that is available at a convenient hourly rate. But complexity makes marketers even more frightened of jumping into the social pool. So here’s a simple suggestion: Listen and add value. Thanks to digital technology, it is extremely simple and low cost for your business to do both. As an example, let me share our work on the Pringles brand that just hit the social scene last week.
For well more than a year now Pringles has been very active in social media. We chose to embrace this as a focus of our digital marketing work because the brand fits within the world of entertainment and social sharing. The brand itself aims to create moments of unexpected fun. One of our first steps was to pull together many brand and consumer-generated Facebook groups. Within a few weeks Pringles became one of the top five brand Facebook accounts with more than 3 million fans around the world. In the months since, we have used the space mainly to share how others are playing with the brand. For example, highlighting fan-created videos such as this one.
We also used the Facebook page to share our “Can Hands” banner ad last summer. The ad that you can’t stop clicking became a minor sensation on sites where people share what’s cool (rarely advertising)—such as Reddit, CollegeHumor, BuzzFeed, and Fark. Over one weekend we had 300,000 people play with the banner on our staging server. Many completed all 95 clicks to get to the end.
But as much as we like to seed the engagement ourselves, a lot of Pringles social sharing comes from consumers’ passion and initiative. For example, in January someone created a Facebook page titled: “Dear Pringles, I cannot fit my hand inside your tube of deliciousness.” The group apparently arose as a humorous “protest” to the size of the can, and some people’s inability to reach down for the last few crisps. We watched as membership grew to 10,000 fans within the first week, and then to 100,000 fans over the first month. When the group reached 1,000,000, we knew we had to do something.
But what to do? Well, the most obvious solution when people are having fun with your brand in the social sphere is to join in on the fun—even if it means poking fun at yourself in the process. Our team worked with our global client to answer the buzz with something that could be quick, cheap, and meaningful. It’s important to call out why I chose these words:
- Global: Pringles is a global brand and Facebook is a global platform, so we had to be broad.
- Quick: The passion around this Facebook page might dwindle over time, so we wanted to act before it faded.
- Cheap: You never know whether an idea will catch fire or not; in fact, the odds are against it. So better to try something that works on a small budget. Further, when you spend a little to test an idea it means you have to have fewer conversations about various approvals and ROI measures.
- Meaningful: Again, the key is to add value to the community. People love to see a brand get involved, as long as its participation adds to the fun versus sucking it out.
Our agency and client team worked on ideas together and ended up choosing to use video to “respond” to people who are having trouble getting their hands into our cans. We developed ideas and shot video in an extremely short time period, and just uploaded them to YouTube and our Facebook page last week. You can see one of the directions we took in the video above—a tongue-in-cheek exercise video for people to work on their can/hand skills. At the end of the day, the Pringles can is engineered to protect the crisps and maximize value for consumers. A shorter can would mean fewer crisps, and a wider can would result in more broken pieces. So we’re not changing the can, but we can have fun with it—even building in the solution to consumers’ frustrations: “Tip & Enjoy.”
Another miniseries takes the form of a taunting voice from the bottom of the can. Check out one of these videos below:
It’s far too early to call this a success. We just launched it last week and will be doing a few things to seed it in the weeks ahead. Whether this becomes the next great social-media case study or not, we have entered the conversation in a meaningful way and will definitely learn lessons that will make us more successful as we continue our venture into social media. No matter what white papers you read or how many social-media experts you hire, there is nothing more valuable than getting firsthand experience with your fans.