In 2011, more than 1 million Barbie fans voted online to determine Barbie’s next career for its “I Can Be” line of dolls.
This level of reach and consumer interaction, driven through social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, earned toy-maker Mattel a PR Week Campaign of the Year award for its ability to keep the 125-year-old doll icon fresh and relevant.
Mattel clearly understands that modern consumers demand a much more engaging brand experience. And when done well, social media marketing can make a big impact on brand reputation. In fact, when the new Computer Engineer Barbie hit retail shelves, campaign efforts were credited with driving a 144 percent sales increase.
The Mattel campaign was successful because it allowed consumers — many of whom played with the dolls as children — to feel important by asking them to participate in crafting Barbie’s future. When consumers voted, they could inform their personal social networks, thereby quickly spreading word of the unique opportunity.
The ability of social networks to quickly spread news and messages to the masses means that an online presence now needs to be more than simply a constant output of content. Customer engagement and interaction in real time are key factors that brands should build into a campaign.
One such example can be seen in the recent grassroots efforts that successfully defeated the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) legislation within the U.S. House of Representatives. Companies who opposed the legislation, such as Wikipedia, Facebook and Google, understood the reach and interactive nature of social media, and asked consumers to sign an anti-censorship petition, call their Congress representative and also encouraged others in opposition to spread word of the petition through their social networks.
Those responsible for SOPA advocacy chose to forgo social media within their campaign strategy, turning only to traditional mediums such as a press release.
The result? Social media wins. Within five days, more than 4.5 million people signed the anti-censorship petition; legislators who originally supported the bill backed down and agreed to review alternative options before moving forward.
Political ideology or Barbie career preference aside, these examples are clear indications of communication and public relations trends. In today’s tech-savvy world, effective brand management must include a well thought-out social media plan within the marketing mix.
— Dana Kohlbeck is an account manager for Coalesce Marketing & Design, Inc. in Appleton.