Web hijacking

I’ve written a number of posts recently about Web 2.0 and marketing’s attempts to involve the online community in campaigns.

We’ve had customers overruling marketing departments and getting them to reverse a logo redesign – Gap. Then we had the web communities basically mocking marketeers by suggesting weird product ideas and names: Barbie and Marmite.

The problem with these online campaigns is that once the ball is rolling, it’s difficult to pull the plug – as Otto, the leading German catalogue company discovered last year to its expense. Its idea: a photo model contest in Facebook. The winner: a male business student in drag.

The student, a male “Brigitte”, admitted he had the idea after coming home and finding his Facebook screen plastered with Otto banners and campaign flashes. So ultimately this was sweet revenge for him, and it confirms again that you need to be more subtle online sometimes, as anyone who’s read about permission marketing will confirm.

Eventually, Otto had to go along with it. The only upside for Otto – the campaign hit the headlines and did at some level raise their profile. And at least it showed they were willing to go with the flow – always a good idea if you’re being mocked. Fight it, and it’ll only get worse! So they immediately invited the young man to a photo shoot in Hamburg and awarded him a shopping voucher.

Not everyone saw the funny side of it, however – especially some of the real ‘models’ who were thrashed by Brigitte. But maybe they’d not been advised properly by a PR agency on dealing with a marketing mishap.

Alex Woodruff

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