Look beyond Facebook and MySpace
According to Tobaccowala, brands need to seriously consider why consumers would ever want to interface with them on a Facebook or MySpace page. For many brands, it just doesn't make sense. Just because your demographic is on Facebook or MySpace doesn't mean they want to see you there.
"I'm a big believer in what MySpace and Facebook do," Tobaccowala says. "I believe in social media, and Facebook and MySpace just happen to be small components of social media. Social media is much broader than MySpace and Facebook.
"When people say they want to do a Facebook widget, we say, 'What is that and why?'" he adds. "If they say they want to figure out a way to leverage social media, we say, 'Yes. And Facebook may be a part of the solution.'"
Technology for its own sake will lead you into some really bogus places, Tobaccowala says. And your obsession with being on MySpace may distract you from focusing where you really need to focus. "We believe it is very important that clients have a Wikipedia strategy," Tobaccowala says. "They have to realize that usually the No. 1 listing in natural search when people type in their company or brand name happens to be a Wikipedia entry. So they should be aware of that. Think less about your MySpace profile, and think more about what's in your Wikipedia entry."
Just as MySpace and Facebook might be receiving a little too much attention from marketers, the world of gaming is not receiving enough, Tobaccowala says. "Our basic belief is that brands should leverage gaming because gaming is already bigger than the movie industry," he says. "For some categories -- such as telecommunications, fast food, automobiles -- gaming is a component that people need to do. Why do virtual worlds? Why not gaming? Gaming has social media attached to it because, increasingly, gaming is online. Gaming has a virtual component, but gaming already has scale and you can do interesting things."
A prime example of a brand aligning with its audience in the gaming world is the campaign GM developed in conjunction with Xbox 360's Project Gotham Racing. Within the context of the game, players can download three Cadillac models for free and race them. Those players that do exceptionally well can gain access to a special level of the game. The campaign, Tobaccowala says, was tremendously successful, not only in terms of how many people downloaded and raced the cars, but also according to anecdotal evidence of people walking into dealerships to check out real-life versions of the cars. The campaign also received significant positive press and gave GM a first-mover advantage in the space.
In the end, whether it's via gaming, Facebook, MySpace or some other perhaps yet-unseen platform, successful marketing boils down to finding the right fit and making creative use of marketing dollars.
"Clients need to recognize that they need to be much more imaginative in how they put programs together," Tobaccowala says. "As much as people might say that media is the new creative, I want to tell you that creative is the new media. I've always believed that the future doesn't fit in the containers of the past."
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Lori Luechtefeld is editor of iMedia Connection.