Not So Random Observations: Nikon and alli
I've been thinking quite a bit about Nikon and alli. Not because I am considering becoming a customer of either because, in order, not now and not likely.
Because the blog campaigns of both have taken a few hits lately. Some deserved and some not so.
Let's start with Nikon, which loaned expensive digital SLR cameras to about 50 marketing and PR bloggers this spring. No obligation to write, and a promise of a discount if they decided to keep the camera after the review period. Doesn't sound like a bad program, does it? Seems to respect the bloggers. Not that different from other sampling programs the company has done.
Many bloggers, myself included, didn't have any major problems with the campaign. The outreach was well within recommended guidelines, and the recipients of the loaner cameras all disclosed their participation in everything they wrote about the camera.
Well, Chicken Little, get out of the way and NEVER underestimate our collective ability to navel gaze. In the eyes of some marketing bloggers, there were serious flaws with the program, and recipients of the loaners couldn't be objective about the program, let alone the camera. [Note: I am not a camera recipient.]
Did the value of the camera, far more than the usual product sample, create the problem? Perhaps, but readers are smart enough to filter what they read, provided there is full disclosure. Which there was.
Another criticism was that the 50 or so chosen participants were people with whom Nikon's agency already had relationships. Uhmm. This is one of the key recommendations we make in blogger relations -- know your customers. If marketing types are likely prospects for a product, which in this case they are, why shouldn't you reach out to them? If your goal is to get people talking about your product, why wouldn't you select a group that would be highly likely to try the camera and then tell others?
Some bloggers felt strongly that blogger relations programs should always benefit the larger community, not just those selected to participate. They asked, how does giving cameras to some benefit all? This is a lovely thought, but not terribly practical, and not really necessary. We cannot expect every outreach, from every company, to benefit every member of the community. It's nice when they do, and I am a firm believer in companies giving back. But sometimes, they just want a little talk about their products, so they reach out to influencers. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that.
The one thing I would fault Nikon on is not getting more involved with the people trying the camera. Hands off is one thing. No engagement is another. If the recipients are part of a community you want to reach, you ought to at least talk with them....Doesn't have to be a focus group or even structured feedback. I'd also like to see the company do some sampling programs with other bloggers that would be equally interested in Nikon cameras. Not just this group of marketers.
But these are quibbles. Overall, I still put the Nikon campaign into the "good" column.
Was asking for comments wrong? Maybe. But that's not what I want to talk about, and that horse is pretty dead anyway.
It was the wrong question. The right question, as I left in a comment on Debbie's blog, was Why wasn't the blog getting comments? If Debbie had asked this question, the response would have been far different.
I don't think the alli blog and bloggers are fake in their concern or desire to help people lose weight. Sure, they have commercial imperatives, but they really seem to believe in their product. So why no comments?
Quite literally, because nobody wants to talk about this shit.
I commend the folks at GSK for their frankness about the side effects of alli. But, let's face it, how many people want to read about "treatment effects?" Or write about their own, assuming that is even allowed. When we keep reading about how potential employers are googling us to find out about our pasts, who would want to admit that they depend on Depends?
The problem with the alli blog, and the conversation or lack thereof, is that it focuses on the product, not on people. And that's the wrong focus.
People may consider taking this drug, but not because they want to be alli users. Not because there is any cachet in being an alli user. I think we are all quite clear on that. They'll consider this drug because they want to lose weight and other alternatives either haven't worked or don't appeal.
That's your community: people who want to lose weight. So if you want to serve the community, you provide information and resources that meet the needs of the community. Sure, you can provide information on your product. It would be silly not to. But everything can't be branded, sanitized, corporate-approved alli content. That's a bit dull. And doesn't inspire comments.
So let me step into my monday-morning-quarterback chair and share some thoughts on what I think might work better. And perhaps start a little conversation.
A big part of the alli message is that you have to change your lifestyle, not just pop a pill. Exercise more. Eat better. So, find some experts, preferably people who are already blogging on these topics, and ask them to write for you. Find a food blogger who writes about low fat cooking and ask her to write a food column. I am certain that a major worry for many considering alli is how they can continue to eat well with their families. Offer a recipe makeover that takes a family favorite down to reasonable fat levels.
In other words, give back to the community before you ask them to buy from you. And make sure that what you are offering is useful whether a person ever takes the drug or not.
Link out to other reputable weight loss sites and resources. Do you run the risk that the dieter might go with South Beach instead of alli? Sure, but you run that risk anyway. By being open, by providing access to alternatives, you move away from simply being a corporate product site to becoming a real resource for the community.
And that's how you become part of the community.
Now, a company, GSK or any other, doesn't have to do any of this. In which case, I'm not sure it really needs a blog.
If all you want to do is push information out, stick to a Web site. Nobody really expects to talk to you there.
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