Recently quasi-celebrity P-Diddy and Burger King conducted a master class on how NOT to use the evolving Web 2.0 environment to build a brand. This cautionary tale is not only highly amusing to those who have any leanings towards schadenfreud, but also speaks volumes about the dangers of trying to import traditional “talking at consumers” brand-building approaches into the Brave New World of user-generated content.
This e-disaster started with a tin-ear, cringe-inducing video posted on online video megasite YouTube, which showed famous-for-being-famous P-Diddy going into “his local Burger King” to “have it his way.” Implausible as it is that Mr. Bling would actually deign to enter a Burger King, the brand destruction really gets under way when Diddy says that “Burger King has named me ‘The King of Music and Fashion.'” This hit another false note, with the wanna-be icon spouting a blatant attempt to connect his brand with that of BK.
The marketing car wreck continues with Diddy going to the counter to order a Whopper “his way,” which, apparently, and idiotically, means simply a Whopper with everything on it. Then he actually gets huffy with the counter guy for asking him (yes, even you, Diddy!) to pay for his Whopper. Finally, he unleashes the pompous line, “You know, when two kings get together, they’ve got to do it in a special way,” and ends with a promise to feature his celebrity friends and even (gasp!) “non-famous” people on his new YouTube channel, which he and Burger King have just “purchased,” even though YouTube channels are free. Go figure.
As terrible as the video was, and as brand-destroying as it was for both Diddy and Burger King, insult was quickly added to injury via the tens of thousands of comments about the video that were posted by YouTube visitors. The great majority of the posts were, well, let’s just say “highly critical” of the video, often using colorful language and brutal expletives directed at both offending parties.
And, as the final nail in the coffin for this foray into Web 2.0 marketing, a popular parody of the clip by YouTube favorite Lisa Nova skewered the clip so effectively that this parody video was viewed almost as much as the original, only with much more favorable comments and a higher quality rating.
Then, surprisingly enough, the clip itself was pulled, leaving only the tens of thousands of negative comments. Way to go, Diddy and BK!
The big lesson learned from this misadventure: Marketing in user-generated environments should be spontaneous and honest, not stilted and formulaic. A good example of this is the Coke + Mentos clips, where the interaction of these two products produces pyrotechnic results, and which have been great brand-building exercises for both companies. Of course, those companies had nothing to do with those the creation of those clips, which leads us to next week’s topic, namely, what companies ARE using the Web 2.0 environment to successfully build their brands.