Brand Awareness is Not an Idea

With the rampant adaptation of social, we find ourselves in an overly saturated market of conversation platforms all competing for your attention. Competition is good, why? Because it forces out mediocrity. Not just in your digital campaigns, but the quality of your candidate experience. Yes, to have a Facebook page, a Twitter page or a Youtube Channel is as common as email. As with all technology platforms from Facebook to Second Life, there is a period of marketing hype. A period in that the platform in and of itself becomes the central idea to the marketing strategy. The objectives are usually wrapped together with words of awareness, traffic driving, community building and brand building. Don’t get me wrong, those are legitimate objectives. They are the transitive behavior that we seek to achieve our marketing goals. But brand awareness is not an idea. Nor are the other objectives. They are the outcomes in which the social strategy is to achieve. So to coin an old iconic phrase, “Where’s the beef?

The beef you ask? Well that would be the Idea. The element that emotionally connects people to your objectives. The element that disrupts conventions and engages people so deeply into the activity that they forget about the technology platform altogether. A clear attention grabbing, stand out from the crowd idea that differentiates you and gets people to think differently about you, participate with your idea, and share with others. 

A fundamental rule of great advertising is not to let your strategy show. In fact, make it so that your audience doesn’t even realize that they are reading an ad. People are incredibly cynical of all advertising. We don’t want to be sold to. An “Under the radar” approach that Richard Kirschenbaum wrote about. If you can get your idea under their cynical radar, you have a greater chance to gain their mindshare. Well, now amplify this cynical radar people have with the power of social. The idea, and the way in which it is delivered is the differentiator.

Here are some examples of when the “idea” is king and the platform and technology is subservient. No pun intended for the first example:

This classic piece from Burger King was dreamed up by Crispin Porter + Bogusky and The Barbarian Group. They built a fake web cam experience that had a man in a chicken suit appear on the web cam and users could type in anything they would want the chicken to do…thus the name, Subservient Chicken. The idea wasn’t a web cam, it wasn’t a video, nor was it chat. The technology was invisible. Can you identify what the idea was?

Regardless of your political views, Pepsi sponsored a timely Youtube channel that allowed people to post their wishes and excitement over the new change in US government. It was a campaign called “Dear Mr. President”. Celebrities as well posted up their expectations from the president. This idea was done before taking an opposite approach by saying farewell to the old president. That series was more raw and user generated so it felt more real and less commercial. Either way, both were very effective in generating lively conversations that led to strong virals. The idea wasn’t a Youtube Channel, nor was it a video. Can you identify what the idea was?

You may all remember that hilarious campaign by Burger King (once again kudos to Crispin Porter+Bogusky) that was a Facebook app called Whopper Sacrifice. Basically an app that will give you a free whopper if you delete 10 of your friends in Facebook. Memorable, engaging, controversial, and pure viral. So much that Facebook had to shut it down. The idea wasn’t a widget on Facebook. It wasn’t a fan page either. Can you identify the idea?

NEC corporation has a major commitment to global warming initiatives, technology and ecology. In one of the most beautifully done online bulletin boards ever done,  Ecotonoha enabled their initiative to expand. The idea wasn’t a chat room, bulletin board, nor was it a blog. Can you identify the idea and it’s intent?

The small sampling above were great ideas that became greater with the help of empowered audiences. The audiences were invited to participate with a social activity that immersed them so much into the idea that they didn’t pay attention to the technology itself. With clear objectives of what we want to achieve in social, ideas can drive mindshare over twice the size of the budget. The key is just allowing unique ideas to drive social activities. 


TMP Worldwide
Written by TMP Worldwide


  1. Drew

    If I could take this thought that you just posted, compress it into a magic potion and slip it into the drinks of everyone at the next big Marketing, Recruitment, Advertising or other communications related conference, the world would be a better place. I’m blown away by how many people today underestimate the importance of ideas, big, juicy, sink your teeth into (chicken your way) sort of ideas. The ones that make you stop and think, truly disruptive moments in time. We all remember them. They become social currency. Content isn’t king. It’s just noise without an idea. Thanks for reminding me what we’re fighting for. Great start to my day.

  2. russellmiyaki

    Thanks Drew. It is truly something that can easily get overlooked with all of the pressures of what technology provides. Instantaneous, easy access, ready to go communication platforms. :^)

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