You vs. Cat – The new iPad app by Purina Friskies

A new iPad app has the potential to take social to a whole new level!  Now we have an iPad app offering a cross-species online game!  With You vs. Cat, you can now engage in online fun playing a form of tablet hockey with your pet!  But don’t make any big bets with Fluffy.  According to the world-wide leaderboard, the felines are trouncing the humans. With their quick reactions, probably inherent in their superior mousing DNA, they are natural goal-tenders and can easily shut you out regardless of your best stats for shots on goal.  The demo cat Buddy is building quite a star reputation and an ego to go with it.  By all reports, he has taken cat arrogance to a new level after wiping the floor with his human opponents.


What makes this so interesting to marketers is that we are talking about some really great content with  unique value to consumers while creating some great buzz for the Friskies pet food brand by Purina.  Promoting a brand by offering apps that do very little will become a thing of the past if the You vs. Cat app becomes a trend leader.


If marketing efforts just push the message over a variety of channels, the message will likely get lost in the clutter.  But create valuable or interesting content and people will use it, talk  about it, write about it, love it and post videos of it.  They will blog, post, comment and ask for new features and new equally fun or useful media.  The potential for word of mouth exposure to the brand is enormous and that’s sure to include all kinds of posts in the social media sphere. And what cat-loving social-addict is not going to love this?


Can we have some fun?  Let’s keep an eye on the various platforms together over the next few months and if your friends or colleagues post something about You vs. Cat, record it in the comments here.  Include scores if that detail is offered.  I’d be interested to know how far and how quickly the news spreads.  And I would like to see if the cats continue to win!


140 Character Assassination – aka #McDstories


By now most of us have heard about McDonald’s infamous social media campaign that went horribly wrong when a hashtag became a so-called bashtag in January 2012.  From a marketer’s perspective, it was a cringe-worthy experience to behold the horror of the 140 character assassination on #McDstories where twitterers relentlessly posted believable horror stories: Everything from finding foreign objects in meals (like a fingernail) to being physically sick after a meal.  McDonald’s pulled the paid promoted hashtag within an hour but of course the blogosphere had powered up enough to light Times Square by that time.  So what should they do now?

Well this is not the first organization to experience such a debacle so what can be learned from previous missteps that have landed so many organizations in social hot water?  Let’s look at David Amerland’s Top 10 Social Media Disasters 2011 where he discusses “teething problems” as the practice of social media grows.  Many sins abound!  Try to spot the common thread in the aftermath of things going  wrong:

  • After BlackBerry’s extended service outage in October 2011:  The communication strategy appeared to be a near wall of silence with only messages containing technical jargon.  Afterward, BlackBerry seemed to pretend nothing happened.  Their first tweet, coming right after the service disruption, was “Happy Monday”.  #DearBlackBerry exploded on Twitter complete with the usual expletives and biting jokes.
  • Paypal’s Social Media crisis ensued after telling a single blogger that she could not use a donate button because her cause was not worthy.  Paypal deleted negative comments on Facebook as if they never existed.  Bad move pal – with social media, you cannot run and you cannot hide.
  • GoDaddy CEO tweeted a link to his video of his personal experience in elephant-shooting.  Thinking himself a protector of a village in Zimbabwe, he forgot that not everyone would see his actions in the same light. Animal protection groups criticized while competitors capitalized.  His response to criticism was perceived as making excuses for his actions and GoDaddy learned the hard way that a high-profile company principal cannot separate private life from business.
  • Prominent bloggers ragged on Ragu after Univlever appeared to hate Dads in their Twitter campaign.  Making matters worse, Univlever was then criticized for not responding to negative comments on Twitter. They became defensive and blamed the Twitterverse for unbalanced comments as if they were the victim.
  • Regarding the infamous Weinergate scandal in which naughty Twitpics were sent by a powerful US congressman. Wiener’s modus operandi?  First deny it, then say your account has  been hacked.  In the end, he was forced to admit he did it.  Lesson learned?  Denials and lies only make the media lions hungrier. Tweet your meat, you lose your seat!

The common practices seem to be denial and impenitence.  Although there was one brand that seemed to get it right after disaster struck:  After much online criticism for using an Arab Spring hashtag to get attention for the Kenneth Cole brand of shoes, several quick apologies were made using different applications.  At least the damage was limited by acting quickly and appropriately.

So what should MacDonald’s do now?  Could they improve their food or their processes and talk about it as a direct response to the bashing they took?   If I had been a complaining ex-customer I would want them to tweet apologetic replies to me.  They could re-establish relationships and turn bashers into advocates.  But it appears there is no plan when damage or crisis strikes.

Listen up corporations, big brands and public figures:  If you mess up, you must bow your head and take responsibility if you want a shred of respect or loyalty to remain after a major gaffe!  Address the problem directly!  Admit your errors right away!  In social, you are in the middle of a conversation!  Poor service, insensitivity, questionable actions, inappropriate comments or whatever caused the crisis was poor judgement.  Apologize over here, apologize over there, then apologize everywhere else and follow up with an apology.  Provide refunds, coupons or other free stuff.  Tell your customers what you are doing to fix the problem.  If it doesn’t sound ridiculous, say thank you for providing ideas for where to improve.  And don’t forget to actually say the word “sorry”.

Social Media Non-Adopters

According to the results of an Ipsos Reid online survey in 2011, 50% of all Canadians have a social networking profile.  There has been a great deal of awe and celebration around this figure.  But what about the other half who have not adopted social networking sites.  If we are using social media as a marketing tool, we are missing half the population!  I have several friends and relatives that simply will not join any of the popular social media sites.  I even know people who, by choice, have no internet connection at all!  Forget Web 2.0 – some have not become conversant with Web 1.0!  Maybe you’ve heard these sorts of statements, which are only the tip of the iceberg:

  •  “I’ve heard about privacy problems.  I’m still very leery to be out there.”
  • “I don’t have time to go on those sites.”
  • “It’s so impersonal.  Why don’t people just pick up the phone?”

I usually find myself trying to persuade the non-adopters to join in, although I don’t think I’ve actually been successful.  And some of their opinions are pretty hard to argue.

Privacy concerns?  Well, they certainly have me there with that argument.  Just try to count all the privacy breaches that have occurred on many platforms and through service providers where personal information was inadvertently released.   As a marketer, it is pretty hard to promise complete privacy to worried non-adopters.  So I couldn’t convince them on that score.

Social media sites are a time waster?  I suppose there is some truth to that statement because there have often been many things I should have been doing instead of frequenting my many sites.  I have to admit, I do waste time, but one could argue that the time spent is recreational.  It can also be educational and inspiring since there is an endless supply of all types of content and ways to connect, learn, share and be entertained.  People are now finding jobs using social media and recruiters have thoroughly embraced it as a tool.  Ok, I may have scored a few points with the non-adopters there, but not enough.

Here is my best stab at persuading the non-adopters:  I have strengthened my personal relationships with  friends and family members because of social media sites and wish the same happy experience  for them.  Sadly, there are lots of people I see only a few times a year.  I would love to get together and  maybe share some old photos, eat great food, laugh and hug.  But it just doesn’t happen that often.  There is so much to share with your online community that you feel even more connected than relying on face-to-face get-togethers only.  On a daily basis, I often know where my friends are, what they are doing and see videos of them.  I can even see their vacation pictures (or not)!  I have a new-found respect for many friends that I’ve LinkedIn because I never really knew all of their professional credentials.  Who asks their friends for a resume “in real life”?  I can even see my great niece growing up on the other side of the country using Skype!  How would all this be possible if we were limited to a once or twice a year visit?  The non-adopters cock their heads at this sermon and seem somewhat interested.  But without the actual experience, they are still reluctant.

So far, the sales pitch has been largely unsuccessful.  But I still want my non-adopter friends and family to join me online and share the various communities available.  How else can I convince them?  There’s a huge market that is currently not engaged and marketers need to find ways to entice the non-adopters into our online circles and help them set their objections aside.