Is it harder to execute promotional marketing in the social-media age? The Marketing Society Forum

New Covent Garden Food Co has come under fire after no one won its 'win a farm' competition.

NO - David Atkinson, Managing partner, Space

Traditionally, the promoter has been able to estimate likely redemptions based on expected participation. This can enable costs to be fixed through insurance, and for the prize fund to be swelled to make a more appealing headline. It would be possible to offer '£1m of prizes', based on a predicted redemption rate of 10% for a cost of £100,000. But the 'adapt or die' maxim applies. We want consumer engagement, and with social media, we are getting it.

True consumer engagement demands greater sharing and, as with every other area of marketing, promotional campaigns have much to gain from this shift. Social media should be a friend to share with, not an enemy to fear.

NO - Emma Woods, Marketing director, PizzaExpress

At PizzaExpress we believe social media enhances our ability to run 'brand engaging' competitions and events, provided the mechanics and logic of these genuinely make sense to our customers and they don't feel duped in any way.

Recently, we asked customers to 'create their own pizza'; 53,000 competed to get a recipe on our menu and 80,000 of our fan base voted on a shortlist. At all stages, we used social-media channels to describe the entries we'd received, explain the shortlisting and encourage participation.

This led to the 'Da Morire' pizza (a Gorgonzola, pancetta and caramelised leek recipe created by a customer, Simon Pritchard) becoming one of our bestsellers.

NO - Jon Davie, Managing director, Zone

Social media makes it easier for a brand to discern what consumers think of a campaign. People have always disliked competitions they can't win, just as they have been irritated by obvious PR stunts and other crimes against marketing.

At least the New Covent Garden Food Co was able to find out what customers really thought about the competition. In a pre-social-media world, when brands could secure their Institute of Promotional Marketing approval and still be unaware of what punters thought, it might have planned a follow-up.

Facebook, Twitter, Mumsnet et al don't inherently make marketing harder, but they do help make it more accountable. Surely the industry should welcome this?

NO - Sarah Stratford, Strategy director, Archibald Ingall Stretton

Social media is often viewed as a short cut to reaching a captive audience, but long-term consumer engagement is never achieved through incentivising a one-off action, through any channel.

Social media is a vital way to connect directly with consumers. It's not easier, or more difficult: it just has to be executed well.

Successful creative in social media can come only from an understanding of what your audience genuinely values.


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