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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.


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Growth obsessed startup co-founder (MusicBox) and strategist-for-hire.

2 Comments Join the Conversation

  1. SHOPULARITY’s Founder here.

    First, thanks for taking the time to write something about the article and SHOPULARITY. It’s our first piece and we’re very excited there’s interest in what we’re doing.

    You hit the nail on the head with, “…it could be quite entertaining, sort of Reality TV meets Extreme Product Placement…” That’s exactly what the vision is. SHOPULARITY is a game.

    I completely agree that most people just want something for free. There does exist, however, a substantial group of people who really want something particular, see the value in that product for them personally, and are able to tell a story to others around why they want something. SHOPULARITY seeks to tap in to that, so it becomes not just “vote for me because i want it!” but putting real people with real motivations behind their self-promotion. Lofty goal? I don’t think it’s so terribly lofty as it’s already happened in past contests. Contestants that post videos and really work at letting others know they have a personal connection to the prize have won. As the length of the Contests get shorter, I believe this type of behavior will happen more and more.

    As you mention, you are right in that true advocacy can’t be bought. SHOPULARITY, in a quasi-altruistic manner (it’s still a business, after-all), opens the door for people who couldn’t necessarily afford some high-end stuff or services and gives them the chance to own or experience these things for themselves, if they can convince others they’re worthy.

    There’s a reason SHOPULARITY will stand out against the normal on-site giveaways run by bloggers and mom-and-pop shops: the quality of the brands and products fueling SHOPULARITY and our ability to run a contest in an exciting, novel way. I absolutely believe there is a balance and a place for SHOPULARITY in today’s social-network advertising centric world where it can be both successful and, yes, entertaining.

    Finally, don’t forget about impressions. We’re still talking about an Advertising platform here. A giveaway of this type exposes that product, brand or service to an entire audience that might not otherwise interact with that entity. That’s valuable, even if it doesn’t immediately lead to a conversion.


  2. Hey Jordan – appreciate the thoughtful comments and additional perspective. I absolutely look forward to seeing the results of your site. Once we move “true brand advocacy” to the side, I agree that there is clearly potential upside for brands involved with SHOPULARITY. Access to products and a platform that amplifies consumer feedback (positive, at that!) are certainly beneficial.

    Best of luck!


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