On the tube (underground, not television) last night, I saw the print version of this:
Yes, Brita water filters are now, at last, available in five colours. And you can go to their website and vote for your favourite.
Let me stop you there, Brita.
You have obviously been told by someone that consumers (which is what people in marketing call people) are desperate to interact with brands. You may have been pointed towards successful examples of fun promotions which make use of a voting mechanic, such as Walkers' rather brilliant Do Us A Flavour campaign from a couple of years back. This has presumably led you to the inescapable conclusion that everyone is going to have a point of view on the colours of your water filters, and will be so glad of the opportunity to make their preference known to the world. That's how you generate brand love, isn't it?
And who knows, maybe you're planning to showcase the winner in some sort of ad campaign, maybe with glowing testimonials from its superfans. That way you'd have ticked the box for 'user-generated content' too.
What may have escaped your notice, though, is that you sell water filters.
Water filters, for heaven's sake. It's hard enough to believe that anyone would really bother voting for their favourite-coloured water filter if they happened to stumble across the website. The idea that someone would feel strongly enough that they would see a billboard ad, make a mental note of the website, and sit down at the end of the day to exercise their democratic right to choose purple over orange is... stupid.
If you want to do market research, hire a market research firm, and if you want to advertise, advertise. Don't crash the two together under the spurious banner of consumer engagement. I can't imagine how much that must have cost to produce such a boring, insulting campaign. (Effectively, the message is, 'You will vote for anything; vote for this'.) A similar budget could, one imagines, have brought to life an interesting, creative campaign that would have stuck in people's minds, rather than a feeble lead-generating promo like this. And if you don't think you can be creative with the idea of 'our products come in different colours', I refer you to Dulux's Colours That Go campaign.
Brita's not the only offender in the 'rubbish consumer engagement' category. Pantene is playing the user-generated content game at the moment with its Make A Swisssh campaign, where you can show how much you love the Pantene brand by, erm, uploading photos of yourself... swishing your hair around...
Listen, Pantene, and every other marketer out there who thinks we're all desperate to get involved in the creation of branded content. We have jobs, and lives, and limited time, and we do those jobs to earn money, and in our limited time we go out to shops and hand over money for your products.
Do not expect that we will fall over ourselves to make your ads for you as well.
Unless, of course, the experience is exceptionally rewarding. It's No Picnic was brilliant because the basic concept was hilarious, and people got the chance to end up on TV. This isn't: it's just a feeble and slightly demeaning prize draw.
Put some effort in. Make your own ads. And make them good.
# Alex Steer (16/09/2010)