eBay’s Holiday Contest SNAFU a lesson for all eMarketers

December 22, 2008

Guest Post:  This post was contributed by Kelly Kilpatrick, who writes on the subject of MBA admissions. She invites your feedback at kellykilpatrick24 at gmail dot com.

In the TechCrunch article (12/4) “eBay Holiday Contest Overrun By Automated Scripts, Honest Users Disgruntled,” it would seem the Internet behemoth messed up on its latest promotional effort, a holiday contest that was supposed to allow users of eBay to find valuable items in various listings for merely $1.

“E-commerce juggernaut eBay is under fire because of a holiday giveaway contest gone awry. On Tuesday 25 November, eBay announced its $1 Holiday Doorbusters deals promotion, giving away 100 gifts ranging from jewelry, clothing, digital cameras, GPS devices to a brand-new Chevrolet Corvette for a $1 fixed price on a daily basis. The only catch is that there’s no announcement on when these items are released or in which category they will be in.

But cheaters came up with a clever way of winning deals on an automated basis by running scripts to continuously bid on items for $1. That way, they’re gaming the system and winning hundreds of auctions before the items are even available to the public.”

Not the desired outcome for eBay and a serious black eye to the brand integrity of an organization so committed to keeping things honest on its site.

So, what’s the lesson I mentioned for eMarketers here? Well, it’s the lesson we all know but commonly ignore: the devil is in the details.

Here are some tips for anyone planning an e-promotion:

  1. Take a look at who’s done a promotion similar to yours and see what they did well and where they may have misstepped. Learn from the mistakes of others (i.e. eBay!).
  2. Be sure you officially announce your promotion to the public (both via press release and your Web site) with plenty of notice (several weeks) to ensure fairness for all who want to participate.
  3. Review, review, review. Run it through your marketing team, legal, PR – everyone to make sure you haven’t forgotten any important details, and let them all tear it apart. It’s time-consuming and painful but the input is helpful. Have someone review it externally as well. It can be hard to see mistakes in copy you’ve been staring at forever.
  4. If you sense any sort of shenanigans with the promotion/contest once it starts, discontinue it immediately and be honest with your audience. They’ll respect your integrity.
  5. If nothing goes wrong, be sure and keep site visitors informed about the contest results. People are wary of contests online and often think it’s nothing more than a ploy to generate traffic and incremental business.

Online promotions and contests are a great way to drive traffic and build awareness. You just need to make sure you’ve done everything you can to make it a good experience and so anyone who wants to participate gets a fair shake.

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The Art of (Brand Messaging) Storytelling in the Blogosphere

August 28, 2008

Guest post by Jory Des Jardins (jory@blogher.com) of BlogHer.

Earlier this year, my company started discussions with a client who was contemplating working with us on a word-of-mouth campaign around a new, launching product involving blogger reviews. In the background meeting we learned that the product had once been recalled. The client initially thought that this information should be suppressed but eventually came to agree with our approach to disclose this information.

I could understand the client’s initial rationale: For many marketers a “win” consists of seeing their message adopted by a media outlet, and ultimately by the customer– if not word for word, then at least positively. By providing bloggers with any negative information that would invariably be mentioned, the message is at risk.

And with social media there are many ways that a message can be misinterpreted; for instance, a blogger may overemphasize the product recall and not mention the new version’s value at all. Multiply this by the many formats currently available to customers, and you could see your misinterpreted message show up as a scathing blog post, unappealing photo, snarky poll item, dismissive tweet or overly simplified text message. Read the rest of this entry »