News & Views

Promiscuity Pays

by Georgia Malden

From right-sizing your Facebook fanbase to courting the competition, sometimes it pays to encourage customers to cheat on your brand

I’m sure you’ll have seen the ‘Facebook fraud’ video doing the rounds the past week. Some 1.4 million people have. It argues the case that even legitimate Facebook advertising leads to ‘fake Likes’ generated from click farms. The result? The more meaningless Likes, the lower the engagement. Without getting into the nitty gritty of the argument (see here for a cogent rebuttal and ensuing debate), it got the Contagious team thinking about whether we might be in for a wave of Facebook fan culling…

We’ve already seen one example of that in recent months. Burger King Norway’s Whopper Sellout campaign asked the brand’s 38,000 Facebook fans to choose between two options: join its new Facebook page if you’re a real fan, or receive a free McDonald's Big Mac and be banned from Burger King’s page for life. 8,400 people chose to join the new page, and Burger King gave away all its 1,000 Big Mac vouchers within a week. While it’s not clear how many people opted to sell out, the chances are a large proportion of the original fanbase simply took no action at all. And by ditching that deadwood, the brand increased engagement levels on the new page by five times.

The polarising strategy has divided opinion. Yes, it may have lost a swathe of its potential audience, but those were just the apathetic who didn’t interact at all (and who knows, maybe there were a few ‘fakes’ amongst them). When it comes to the Big Mac choosers, far from ‘banning’ them Burger King turned them into a much more valuable group. By getting them to leave their data to redeem their voucher, it collected a richer (owned) database of potential people to market to. 

OK, so this may have been more of a PR stunt than a considered ROI strategy, but it does raise questions around how you should evaluate your social media efforts. Are you wasting your money managing a page that no one is taking any notice of?  If you concentrated on the few, would it be a better use of resources - particularly given research firm Forrester’s findings that the more engaged a social user, the more likely they are to buy from or recommend you to others?

With Facebook’s recent algorithm changes meaning that it’s harder than ever for brands to get organic reach, maybe we’re going to see others follow suit to ensure their posts go further? 

But there’s another element to this story that’s interesting. Sending customers a Big Mac rather than a Whopper was a stroke of genius, if a recent study in the Scientific American is to be believed. The researchers found that if customers ‘flirt’ with a competitor brand, it can actually increase loyalty to the original brand. Leaving aside the dubious overuse of the word ‘arousal’, the study makes an interesting suggestion that encouraging trial of a competitor’s product could be more beneficial than highlighting its deficiencies. All those disloyal defectors might actually have found themselves more turned on to Burger King after redeeming their dirty discount.

This may be the thinking behind the rise of ‘Disloyalty’ schemes, such as that pioneered by Contagious HQ’s local coffee shop Prufrock in London way back in 2010, which challenged people to visit its competitors in the area. More recently, we’ve seen a group of independent coffee shops in Washington DC evolve this idea, coming together to create a shared Disloyalty card, which incentivises customers to visit each of the participating shops rather than always returning to the same one. 

This approach is genius for two reasons. First, by collaborating with other small shops, the participating cafés aim to grow the market for independents versus the big chain competition. Second, if the Scientific American research is anything to go by, recognising that your customers might appreciate an occasional fling could be good for business.

So, in the spirit of philandering (editorially, at least), you might now want to go and enjoy the excellent resources of these guys, or these...