Gaining Online Cred Is the Real Contest

Brands want to play in the social media sandbox. That much has been established. But what games are they playing? That topic needs a bit more exploration.
Spike Jones of Brains of Fire suggests the “go to” game is a social media contest. He says it’s good in that contests promote interaction, participation and involvement. But they lack for equally important reasons.

In the vast majority of cases, it’s the brand saying, “We want YOU to do something for US. Talk about US. Make it about US. Tell US how much you love US.” Sure, there’s participation, but it’s a controlled participation. There are rules involved. Guidelines. Parameters.

That’s great insight. Brands still have a long way to go before they recognize the web as the consumers’ sandbox. It’s natural, of course, to see the web as just another medium for their commercial messages, but commercial messages on the web are mostly uninvited dorks at a clothing optional pool party.
According to b-side, Coca-Cola’s biggest consumer generated success was the series of Diet Coke experiments with Mentos.

It must be noted that Diet Coke had nothing to do with the making of these videos. They we’re truly consumer generated. No contest needed.



About David Burn

I wrote my first ad for a political candidate when I was 17 years old. She won her race and I felt the seductive power of advertising for the first time. Today—after working for seven agencies in five states—I am head of brand strategy and creative at Bonehook in Portland, Oregon.