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Why The Business Journal’s Social Madness misses the mark for brands

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By now you’ve surely seen the Business Journal’s Social Madness game, which is featured in more than 40 markets across the country. The idea? To pit brand vs. brand in a NCAA-style tournament bracket (eventually) where companies like Target and General Mills go face-to-face to claim the top prize as “most popular brand in the history of mankind” (OK, I made that last point up, but I’m still not sure what the top “prize” is here).

Say what you will (and I’ll say a few things in a moment) about the program, but it seems to work for The Business Journal. And, they even donate some amount of money (they don’t say how much) to charity on behalf of the winners.

But, as I look at the contest, I can’t help but wonder what’s really in it for brands. I mean, this is probably a home run (or a triple at the very least) for The Business Journal–after all, they get three-plus months of chatter from this contest (where they’d normally have very little). But, I think it’s a miss for brands. Here’s why:

It doesn’t inspire true brand affinity

If I’m a prospective fan of Target, I’m not going to “like” Target on Facebook just because I hear about this contest. According to most published reports, one of the major reasons people follow brands on Facebook is for the deals and special offers. Not listed: To help companies win media contests. So, I don’t exactly see the win here for brands. Sure, they might see a short-term bump. But long term? I don’t see the “likes” translating to leads or customers.

It’s just a popularity contest

Sure, we’ve seen these before. Nothing wrong with them. They’re all over the Web. Again, good move for The Business Journals. Not so good for brands. Why? Because there’s no depth to the event. It’s literally based on the whims of readers. If you’re a brand manager, is that the kind of “like” or follow you want?

It seems like a desperate ask

If you’re a brand that participates on Facebook and Twitter regularly, you likely already have strategies in place to gain “likes” and follows. So, why take on a contest where you’re basically pleading for likes/follows on a regular basis? Doesn’t that come off a little desperate? How does that align with your brand values? And, by the way, it’s taking time (albeit, probably not a lot) away from the strategies you already have in place that do align with your business goals.

There are too many asks

The contest started June 1. Finalists in local markets aren’t announced until July 17. And the three national winners aren’t announce til Sept. 11. That’s three-and-a-half months from now. I see how this makes sense for the Business Journal–it gives them something to talk about and promote online for the entire summer (which might be soft for advertising, by the way). But, what does this mean for brands? If you’re a finalist, it means you’re asking for likes/follows for the entire summer. That just seems like too much for me. Won’t followers/fans bristle? Isn’t there a chance you might turn off existing fans/followers, which might even lead to some unfollows?

Will it really lead to new customers?

At the end of the proverbial day, this should be the only question you ask yourself if you’re a brand manager for one of these companies. If your participation in this contest isn’t leading to new customers, why are you doing it? You could make an argument that you can’t get a new customer until they “like” or follow you first. But, to my point above, I just think these are the wrong type of “likes” or follows. Think quality over quantity.

Those are my thoughts. What about you? What do you think of the Business Journal’s Social Madness idea?

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Why The Business Journal’s Social Madness misses the mark for brands

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