Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Giving Away Free Product Does Not Make for a Successful Marketing Campaign

I had the occasion to read about a pretty neat marketing campaign executed by IKEA for the launch of a new European location store opening. It was run through facebook.

The way the campaign was handled and the idea behind it was really unique, it leveraged facebook beautifully, and it was viewed as successful by many in the social media/marketing communities.

A few things grabbed my attention about this campaign that I thought were good tidbits for conversation:
1. One social media pro exclaimed this campaign was proving the death of the micro site
2. IKEA successfully got people on facebook to post IKEA products on their own pages, and in return had a chance to get free furniture
3. IKEA gave away quite a bit of free furniture - or at least that is the message that was communicated through the case study I saw
4. Nowhere did I see how much furniture was actually sold at the grand opening - or even how many people showed up at the grand opening of this new store (the whole point of the campaign as I understood it)

We can take this point by point.....
1. Taking the buzz word "micro site" off the table and looking at the purpose of that tactic - usually to promote a specific product launch, service launch, promotion, limited time offer, etc. A person's profile page on facebook, with all of the API function and rich media capabilities, now basically fills or can fill that same role. The "micro site" based on its function and not its name, is still a micro site it just now lives within the facebook framework. So I guess, the micro site is not dead, it just has a new place to live outside of a unique url address. Facebook, in essence, becomes the "micro site's" browser. Sorry my overzealous friend the "micro site" or as I might call it - the highly focused web promotion - is not dead.

2. IKEA did a great job, and saw a lot of free impressions and some interactivity with their brand in having general consumers spreading their word for them. This is definitely a win for positive brand experience. No need for a long dissertation here.

3. What was IKEA's objective for this initiative? Was it to give away a lot of free furniture? It was made clear that this store did not have a big budget for this store launch, so how much budget did they have to give away free product? If they gave away a lot, did they really save any $$ on their budget? If they did not give away a lot of furniture, did that upset potential customers? None of this explored or explained in the case study I read. The piece made it sound like they gave away a lot of furniture, and if that is true, I must ask, isn't selling furniture the point of all of this?

4. The best scenario I can come up with is why not run this promotion for their e-commerce platform to boost online sales? The fact that the case study did not say how much furniture was sold, or how many people showed up at the store tells me that it probably was not that impressive. If I am wrong, and they saw a big return, then if I was them I would trumpet that from the rooftops.

In closing, I think getting a ton of people to share your product online is great exposure, but many executives are wanting sales, above and beyond impressions and viral passing along of their message. If you are someone selling social media marketing strategy and execution, you ought to know one of the biggest stumbling blocks to a significant budget allocation for you is the lack of tangible ROI cases for social tactics and efforts. Whether you like it or not, that is the tell tale proof for many executives to pull the trigger on a significant budget allocation.

If I am IKEA, I love the case study, but if I do not see a store traffic bump, sales bump or both over time, It was a waste of time, product and money.

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