Feb 18 2011

Downy Blows A Huge Social Media Opportunity

Published by at 10:00 am under marketing

This is cross-posted on the White Horse blog – go there for all types of digital marketing goodness.

Recently, Downy fabric softener and Macy’s bedding department sponsored an event where comedian Mike Birbiglia slept in a Macy’s store window display for a week. People all over the world could watch “Mike in the Window” on Downy’s Facebook page, and see videos of him trying to sleep.

If you’re asking “why?” right about now, you are not alone.

I imagine the pitch meeting for this concept going something like this:

AD AGENCY: See, we’re going to watch this guy sleep in the store window. It’ll be really cool.

BRAND MANAGER: Why would people want to watch that?

AD AGENCY: Don’t worry about that. We’ll get some STAR POWER and combine it with THE SOCIAL MEDIA, and get MACY’S to put in some co-promotion dollars. The bar is set pretty low on the INTERNET and we will get a lot of people to LIKE us on FACEBOOK.

BRAND MANAGER: Wow, so many buzzwords! Let’s do it!

I’m not trying to denigrate the fine people at P&G, but I am saying they got some terrible recommendations from their digital agency, Digitas.

According to Sarah Pasquinucci, the P&G social media strategist on this project, the goal of the campaign was to increase Facebook Fans. She is happy with the results – increasing the Fan base from 50,000 Fans to 183,000.

But the fatal flaw of this campaign was that Downy was extremely disrespectful of its Fans. Downy asked people to take a positive action for the brand – but offered nearly nothing in return. Fans received…a live video stream of Birbiglia in a display window. That’s it.

Even Birbiglia was bored.

The 3 minute “highlight” clip is nearly unwatchable – some of Birbiglia’s friends come by. They talk about…nothing, really. A woman outside sings “Mike Is Not Alone” – song she wrote to the tune of Michael Jackson’s “You Are Not Alone” (for which Downy surely did not pay the rights to Michael Jackson’s estate).

It’s like watching “Seinfeld” – the show about nothing. Except with no jokes.

Downy may have improved its Fan base, but those Fans did not engage with the brand at all. The comments on the Facebook page are unusually dull – “cool” “nice video” and “THIS IS RIDICULOUS” are some of the most recent. This is hardly the mark of a highly engaged customer base.

The biggest downfall in the execution is that Downy didn’t give Fans anything to do, once they had opted in. The promotion was boring, and could never go viral because of it. There was no reason for anyone to share this with their friends.

You can see just how underwhelming the promotion was when you look at the rest of the social media echo chamber. During a 30 day window that included the promotion, Downy netted 133,000 new Facebook Fans, but only generated 26,072 social media mentions in all other social media channels (I pulled this data from Radian6, reviewing all brand mentions during 1/15/201-2/14/2011). That means that less than 1 in 5 Fans thought the promotion was interesting enough to tell their friends about off Facebook.

Here are some of the brand mentions that Downy got from this campaign:

Kate Jacobson is confused by DownyDowny fails at social media promotion with Mike Birbiglia

At its core, this promotion failed in social media because the goal of getting Fans is not a valuable goal at all – it’s what you do with those Fans once you get them. And the strategist on this promotion didn’t think about that at all.

Did you Fan Downy? Let me know in the comments.

One response so far

  • Jaime,

    Great point. A large fan base is good, an engaged fan base is better but the two-way conversation and the give and take between consumers and the brand is best.

    Love that you used our platform for measurement. Thank you!

    Trish Forant (@Dayngr)
    Community Manager | Radian6