Marketing & Online Communities: Techniques still rudimentary

Cross-posted from the Online Community Report.

I initiated the Marketing & Online Community research study in June of 2007, as a function of the Online Community Research Network. The study was conceived as an investigation into the current state of marketing to online communities, from the perspective of both the online community host, as well as from the perspective of a marketer.

We had over 60 completed surveys, and participants included large software companies, large community destination sites, niche community sites, platform providers and interactive marketing and advertising firms.

One of the most interesting findings from the study actually surfaced early in the process. We discovered that while community hosts and practitioners were willing to share their experiences, most marketers were not. After several in-person interviews, it became clear that most marketing and advertising agencies have not met with great success in their community marketing efforts, and are generally unwilling to talk about their experiences to date.The responses from the marketer’s perspective are proportionally less than those from the community host’s, but the insights provided are still of high value.

From the community host’s perspective, one of the most surprising takeaways was that community hosts were still largely relying on banner and text ads as their main marketing and advertising vehicles.

I’ve included 2 of the most relevant question summaries from the report below:

Q: What types of marketing and advertising activity do you support on your community sites?
Summary: Banner and text ads were the most common forms of marketing activity, followed by RSS, branded content and surveys. There was activity indicated on most categories of community marketing, which seems to indicate willingness on the part of online community hosts and practitioners to experiment with new forms of marketing to their communities. Virtual world storefronts and sponsored podcasts scored surprisingly low, given the media attention in the last 6-9 months.

Q: Is advertising targeting available on your site? If so, please select all options that apply.
Summary: Run of site and contextual targeting were available on the majority of respondent’s sites. More sophisticated technologies, like behavioral and demographic targeting were only available on a few of the respondents communities. Given that there is generally a large amount of demographic data available in a community members profile, it would seem that there is a large opportunity to engage in more sophisticated ad targeting on sites currently just offering run of site or contextual targeting.

The Marketing & Online Communities report is published by the Online Community Research Network, a collaborative research series for online community professionals. If you would like to learn more about the Marketing & Online Communities research report, or more about the Online Community Research Network, please visit the OC Research Network home page.

Mattel: How not to handle a PR crisis

I’m pretty sure Mattel couldn’t possibly be doing a worse job of addressing the current toy recall issue, short of trying to suppress it.

As the parent of a 2 year old, who owns several toys from the affected toy lines (but not affected toys), I feel like I have some skin in the game on this one.

Check out the “Voluntary Safety Recall Facts” web site. The whole thing smacks of PR circa 1975.

recall image

Here is a little unsolicited design advice Mattel. When you have a sensitive issue, and hundred of thousands of worried and pissed off parents, don’t use SO MUCH RED. It’s ok to go a little off-brand on this, trust me.

Second, let’s look at the letter from Bob Eckert, CEO, patronizingly titled “Because your children are our children to”. WTF?!? What does that even mean?

Dear Fellow Parents,

Many of us at Mattel are parents ourselves. And like you, we know that nothing is more important than the safety of our children. As you may know, Mattel has recently voluntarily recalled some products for two different reasons: impermissible use of lead paint and risks associated with small, high-powered magnets.

We want to ensure that every parent is aware of these issues, returns affected products to us and knows that we have already taken significant actions to further ensure the safety of our toys.

We hope that we don’t have to recall any more products, but if we do, we pledge to address the matter promptly and to inform you quickly.

Our long record of safety at Mattel is why we’re one of the most trusted names with parents. And it is our sincere hope that the actions we are taking now will maintain that trust in the future.

Thank you for your continued trust.

Bob Eckert
Chairman & Chief Executive Officer
Mattel, Inc.

I find the statement “thank you for your continued trust” a bit presumptuous. The entire reason any consumer would be on this site is because they don’t trust Matel. This is an opportunity to reearn parents trust, not presume it.

The video is probably the worst offender. Every word scrubbed by PR, shot in a sterile corporate setting. It comes off as pretty lame and insincere. What could Bob & co have done better here? How about losing the tie, for starters. How about showing footage of staff on sight in China implementing “3 point process changes”, instead of describing them. The majority of the video is spent seeming to blame their manufacturers, instead of accepting responsibility. The much needed apology comes close to the end, and seems like an insincere but required part of the “script”.

update: One thing I forgot last night… where are the opportunities to participate on this site? Why can’t I leave comments (vent)? If I were Mattel, I would much rather have this activity happening on my site, where I could visibly respond, than offsite.