12 February 2007

Share & Share Alike

To the best of my knowledge, it started with Secret brand deodorant – big ads in the subways and other prominent places, urging women to go share their secrets online. Initially, the urging did not focus as much on the product as the idea, just a site to share information, but now the deodorant component is fully out in the open. (How are the secrets? Not so exciting, and mostly about boy-trouble, with the occasional girl-trouble tossed in.)

Then Kleenex tissues got into the mix, with television ads featuring people crying on the street, sharing their stories – and an encouragement for viewers to go visit the web site and share their stories, too.

Recently, I heard an ad for Pepto-Bismol Max (with a catchy rock song about challenging diarrhea issues; very nice) which also concluded with a promotion for the product’s Great Pepto Max Moments web site.

There are probably others like this, but these are the three “share your stories” campaigns that seem most prominently promoted. (Two of these products are owned by Proctor & Gamble (Secret and Pepto), while Kleenex is a Kimberly-Clark brand.) As marketing campaigns go, I find the whole idea fascinating and odd.

Fascinating because to so explicitly seek out this kind of engagement, create the technology structures to sustain it, and put a lot of advertising dollars behind it, suggests that we the people – consumers – actually crave a chance to “share” directly with the makers of products we may or may not use. Except that in two of these three instances, the sharing is not focused on the quality of the product, but rather the quality of the consumer’s life. Only Pepto boldly went into the realm of asking explicitly for stories about intestinal problems and the product’s relief-providing capabilities – prompting me to ask: do I really need to know this stuff?

Odd because, in a world of blogs, blog comments, online chat rooms, MySpace pages, and even newspapers and other critical reviews that allow for user feedback and rankings, it is strange that consumers would want this kind of interactivity with, say, their deodorant-maker, but not actually about their deodorant. In an environment of 24/7 commentary and never-ending branding, we are apparently more isolated than ever.


At 10:57 AM, Anonymous Ed Newman said...

I watched one of the Kleenex commercials with astonishment. As former New Orleanians, my wife and I commented: "Hey, that's Jackson Square!"(French Quarter) "Jesus-she's talking about people dying in Katrina!" "That's disgraceful-using this to sell tissues....." "I'm never buying Kleenex again!"
I guess, you should pardon the expression, this would qualify as "blowback"


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