Monday, February 7, 2011

Social Media Isn’t Just for People – Ducks and Dinosaurs Do It Too

The week of February 7-11, 2011, is Social Media Week around the world. So, in honor of Social Media Week, it’s a good time to see who participates as well as evaluate the impact of these users.

While the mainstream media gives the impression that celebrities including Ashton Kutcher, Lady Gaga, and the Kardashians set the tone for social media, that isn’t accurate. The amazing thing about social media is that anyone can set the tone – he or she doesn’t need a million fans or followers. Individuals who promote their personal brands or specialty areas and companies who promote their products or services set the tone. From Twitter to Facebook to YouTube to Flickr to Quora to to LinkedIn, anyone can share content or photos or video – and become an overnight sensation.

Television can be referred to as social media 1.0 because companies promote their brands with commercials and event sponsorships. Consider Geico insurance, Energizer batteries, Travelocity, Michelin tires, and Aflac insurance. These companies appear on a regular basis on television. Consumers recognize the brands and purchase the products. They identify with the brands and make the decision to become brand-loyal consumers or purchase similar products from competitors.

Enter Twitter and Facebook, which I call social media 2.0. Thanks to these two websites, consumers now have an opportunity to communicate with these companies in a much more personal level than ever before. Of course, in the past, people called a company’s toll-free number and waited on hold (on ignore) forever. But, due to Twitter and Facebook, customers can voice their complaints and positive experiences in real-time 24/7/365 – and resolve whatever issue is pending. And if an issue is not resolved, the world can and will hear about it immediately.

Another unique marketing result of social media 2.0 is that companies just don’t assign everyday employees to be their voices. Creativity is the name of the game with social media. Consider these product representatives: the Geico Gecko, the Energizer Bunny, Travelocity’s Roaming Gnome, the Michelin Man, and the Aflac Duck – all of these brand icons have their own Twitter accounts and Facebook pages. Another interesting user of both Twitter and Facebook is Sue the T Rex, the largest and best preserved Tyrannosaurus Rex fossil currently residing at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago. By giving a voice to these icons, companies provide a way for customers to build relationships – and those relationships have the potential to create satisfied repeat customers.

So, does your company have a brand icon to engage new customers and retain existing customers in social media? If the answer is no, perhaps, it’s time to consider creating one.

Connect with these brand icons on Twitter and Facebook:

The Geico Gecko

Energizer Bunny

Travelocity Roaming Gnome

Michelin Man

Aflac Duck

Sue the T Rex


  1. Well said Debbie - I'd like to think that my online presence is a good one,with my own logo, my willowtree, remembered by many and a contributing factor for my brand power.

    I don't have the income the bunny or the gecko have, but in my own circles, my brand, my willowtree, is well known!

  2. Thank you for this article! We are creating a character for one of my client's, and you described much more succinctly than I did WHY we need one :) Great article Debbie!

  3. Great post, Debbie. Congratulations on putting together a great list!

    See you,
    Jamie Turner

  4. Some good points in this article, Debbie. Reading it brought to mind this quote from advertising legend, David Ogilvy: "You now have to decide what 'image' you want for your brand. Image means personality. Products, like people, have personalities, and they can make or break them in the market place."

    However, despite the connection these "product representatives" make to the brand, I really have to wonder just how much they influence buying decisions. Being memorable is one thing; being desirable is something entirely different. If the spokes"person" has some kind of hook that directly ties in to the product or service (rather than being merely cute or entertaining) I think there's a greater probability people will not only remember the brand, they'll actually spend money on it.

    Another thing I might respectively question is your reference to television as social media 1.0. TV has been - and for the most part still is - the ultimate purveyor of "interruption" non-demographic-specific marketing (i.e. the commercial). Some cable channels appear to be getting better at the demographic targeting of their ads, but that's still something of a crap shoot. The important part, though, is that TV is quite often a very ANTI-social medium.

    A lot of people watch TV in isolation, removed from any kind of immediate social connectivity or interaction. They sit on their couches in a semi-hypnotic state and MAY only discuss what they were watching the next day with friends or co-workers. Or, if they're particularly moved or inspired by something they see on TV they can immediately resort to genuine social media tools like Facebook and Twitter to spread the word.

    Doug Rawady


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