As for Cartier, the luxury jeweler, it has more than 3,800 friends, including Sting, the band Good Charlotte and Lou Reed. And while the sincerity of these friendships is questionable — when was the last time that Eric Clapton sent Cartier a birthday card, or vice versa? — they send a message that Cartier cares about people who spend their time on MySpace.
For me the lack of authenticity screams out, and will ultimately undermine the efficacy of this sort of campaign. This next excerpt from the NYT article shows very clearly how brands like Cartier misunderstand social networking as a medium:
The MySpace profile was set up to advertise jewelry in Cartier’s Love collection, but visitors can also sample music from artists like Lou Reed and Grand National, including several songs with the theme of love that were composed for Cartier. They can watch film clips with a romantic story line. And, of course, they can click on any of those friends’ pictures to visit their profiles.
The possibility of blending entertainment and marketing and spreading it through chain letter-style links has many marketers excited about social networking.
IMHO these are the wrong things to be excited about.
Instead the focus should be on product and looking for harmony between the values and ethics of Cartier and their potential customers. That would really get people excited about their brand.
The article goes on to discuss the two big problems with monetising social networks:
One, for the advertiser, is a lack of control over the process. The other, for the network owner, is the lack of money changing hands: if “fans” of a luxury brand voluntarily tell their friends about it, why should the brand owner spend any money to do so?
To the first I would say – the days of control are over. The writeable web has seen to that. In the absence of control the only option for brands is to be authentic with regard to their values and ethics, as described above. The need for control goes away if you have nothing to hide.
To the second I don’t have any easy answers, but I think Myspace is in dangerous territory. They charge companies like Cartier to build profiles – and that is ok, but then they drive traffic to them and filter who gets to become their friends. In doing so they undermine the integrity of Myspace in a way that may come back to haunt them. You could make an analogy with Google mixing in advertising results and search results without making the distinction clear and then maybe not letting you click on some links depending on your profile photo.