It should be no surprise that our first president to officially make good use of social media in 2008 would make it an integral part of his campaign in 2012. In fact, Fidelman traces a big part of Obama’s victory to his ability to utilize big data to run a much more adaptive and sophisticated campaign than Mitt Romney. According to Fidelman, “[Obama's team] set up a sophisticated feedback system and tested massive amounts of scenarios on potential voters. When they found key messages that worked, they adopted them wholesale into its social media infrastructure.” Team Obama was also adept at sharing the information they gathered. By profiling and matching Obama volunteers with potential voters, the president’s campaigners had a better chance of making a connection with voters and persuading them to vote for Obama. In the neck-and-neck race that took place this year, these tools were integral in helping Obama galvanize his base.
For millions of people around the world, 2012 will forever be the year that Red Bull made good on its promise to give a man wings... and then let him fall 24 miles into the stratosphere. In a year when NASA was being threatened with budget cuts despite its own successes, Red Bull proved that private interests could fund research into space exploration with its Red Bull Stratos program
. Red Bull took Austrian skydiver Felix Baumgartner up 39 kilometers into the sky, and let him jump down in a pressurized suit. The amazing fall to Earth lasted approximately 10 minutes, and Red Bull made sure that the public would see every second of it. Using social media, the company built up massive interest in the jump on Facebook, Twitter, and various other channels, so that when the event was being broadcast on television and YouTube
(NASDAQ:GOOG), as many people would witness it as possible. Breaking three world records, providing integral data for the future of space suit designs, and reigniting the public’s admiration for space exploration, the Red Bull Stratos project no doubt gave a huge boost to the company’s brand. Hopefully, it will provide an example of how companies should market themselves in the future.
The people on Coke Zero’s
(NYSE:KO) marketing team proved that they understood the power of social media when they created an ad depicting a viral Internet phenomenon that became one itself. The company’s first “Toe Tappy” commercial
was an Internet short that depicted a young man inventing a dance that -- through the use of Internet media -- became a worldwide sensation. The ad not only captured the essence of how the Web can connect us to the world, but it also reached people worldwide through Coca-Cola’s own social media campaign. Currently, the ad has over 4 million views on YouTube alone, and had even sparked a hip-hop parody ad
, which is also gaining traction.
As the marketing teams at Time
(NYSE:TWX) and Frito Lay
(NYSE:PEP) will tell you, requesting consumer feedback on the Internet can lead to mixed results. However, when Domino's Pizza
(NYSE:DPZ) decided to launch an online suggestion box called Think Oven with the promise of awarding the best idea generators, consumers took it seriously. The public felt free to offer their opinions on everything from Domino's uniforms to pizza toppings. Fidelman states that this was a shrewd business decision for both marketing and operating reasons. By using social media, Domino's created a way to get to the heart of consumer interests and continuously improve itself while also decreasing its marketing costs. All around, that’s a win-win.
Who Got it Wrong?
America’s favorite cookie turned 100 this year. To celebrate, Nabisco launched a savvy social media campaign called the "Daily Twist" wherein a different Oreo cookie design was featured every day for 100 days. The company’s first entry turned heads by being a seven layer rainbow cookie made in support of gay pride, delighting gay marriage advocates and offending anti-gay marriage Americans. The rest of the campaign was less controversial, with designs that highlighted events such as the Mars landing, Elvis Week, and The Dark Knight
premiere, thus putting it always on the edge of public consciousness. Fidelman praises the campaign for adding meaning to Oreo’s brand. He says, “It was a great way to help many different groups of people create an emotional connection with the product. As a result, the company saw a significant increase in fan interaction via social media.”
Mitt Romney’s loss in this past election proves that it takes more than a treasury of campaign donations to secure the presidency. In facing Obama’s well-oiled social media machine, Romney was already behind. But when his team decided to advertise primarily with more traditional media, progress slowed to a crawl. Worse, the ventures they did make in social media often proved disastrous. An example was their “With Mitt” app. The app initially brought shame to Romney’s campaign due to its misspelling of "America" as “Amercia,” but things got even worse when citizens began using the app’s ad generator. This allowed users to post photos, which would then have campaign taglines superimposed across the top. Naturally, a large group of people began posting pictures with comedic intent, turning the whole thing into one big joke.
Back in April, Popchips ran into controversy with commercial starring Ashton Kutcher. In the ad, Kutcher played several bachelors on a dating game show. One of the characters was Raj, a blatantly stereotypical Indian man. To play Raj, the actor donned brown face. The portrayal set off a firestorm of racism charges, specifically from the Indian expat community, which utilized Twitter and other social media sites to complain. Despite the outcry, however, Popchips was notably slow in both pulling the ad and apologizing for its content. Eventually, Popchips founder Keith Belling did take to social media to officially apologize on behalf of the company, but by then the damage had been done. Fidelman believes that since social media is able to broadcast the public’s complaints faster than ever before, companies have to react more quickly to mitigate their disasters. Issuing a public apology when it’s called for can be the difference between losing part of one demographic, or losing all of it.
In mid-January, McDonald's (NYSE:MCD) demonstrated a stunning lack of foresight when it launched the McDStories hashtag on Twitter. The company thought that the hashtag would be used by customers to post their favorite nostalgic McDonald's memories, but instead the page became a bulletin board for customer horror stories and a way for past employees to air dirty laundry. Worse, McDonald's has no way to take down the page, so this negative press is likely to keep up for the foreseeable future. Fidelman states that Twitter was a bad choice as the format for this campaign. Had the company used its Facebook page for this community-building campaign, it would have been able to moderate what was posted.
In an effort to market its new Camry, Toyota
(NYSE:TM) tried to attach itself to the Super Bowl this year by setting up accounts that tweeted anyone using #Giants or #Patriots hashtags. Despite offering a brand new car through the promotion, users felt that they were being spammed by Toyota with unsolicited messages. Toyota was quick to shut down the accounts and offer an apology, but its attempt at riding on the coattails of the Super Bowl is a mishap that is being remembered as one of the worst in Twitter's history.
Belvedere Vodka has a history of posting fun images to its pages on Facebook and Twitter. However, this year it crossed the line between funny and offensive with a picture that seem to insinuate a rape. The picture featured a man restraining a women with the words, “Unlike some people, Belvedere always goes down smoothly.” Many voiced their concerns that the ad was in poor taste, and Belvedere was forced to apologize for the ad, and made a contribution to RAINN (an anti-sexual violence organization) in an effort to appease the public. However, Fidelman insists that companies need to put more effort into screening what they decide to put on their Web pages; on the Internet, ads like these never truly go away.