Just read this HuffPo article about a new service called SHOPULARITY. The site is unapologetically based on popularity contests and offers free products to the loudest consumers shouting out “I want this product!” via social media.
There are two disturbing quotes in the article. The first and scariest is: “The marketing magic comes in how Shopularity turns consumers into evangelists for a brand“. The second is a quote from the head of a digi marketing firm, noting that “people trust friends over companies“.
The reason why people trust friends over companies is because friends presumably will offer their take on a product in an unbiased manner, based solely on their experiences and their desire to have a positive impact on a friend’s life (i.e. “I had the greatest massage ever the other day…you have to try them out for your back problems!“). Companies, conversely, are ultimately trying to sell you something so they can benefit (revenue), which is a biased position. SHOPULARITY seems to be the worst of both worlds. Yes, the service’s contests will result in consumers seemingly singing the praises of brands and products. But, unless you are a “means justify the ends” type of person, you’ll observe that such praises are fueled entirely by the desire to receive a free product.
My friends over at Zuberance often argue that true brand advocacy should never be paid for and I (mostly) agree. I suppose my biggest issue here is not with the service itself (it could be quite entertaining, sort of Reality TV meets Extreme Product Placement), but with the potential for the press and “social media gurus/ninjas” to label SHOPULARITY as the next great platform for building brand advocates.