4 case studies in utility, value and entertainment

Compass points

Social media success

It was only recently at the AIMIA Connect conference I heard Peter Bray discussing the importance of utility; sometime ago I was looking at the importance of value within social media; and most recently have been working with Red Bull and gen-z in the entertainment arena.

It wasn’t until I spotted @mariesornin‘s Twitter bio that made me think about them all together: “Passionate about digital, believe in Utility/Entertainment/Value” – needless to say I jumped at the opportunity to explore exactly what she meant.

Huge thank you for these four comprehensive social media success case studies.

What are the three words that will guarantee social media success?

Surely, you will agree with me when I say that social media is a mini revolution in the way people use the Internet. Actually, I feel more accurate in saying a “mega evolution”. In this field marketers can’t assume that users will engage with their brands thanks to high awareness or because they are launching a promotion. Power to the users is more relevant than ever before and this is what makes social media such a complex discipline to master.

Once you’re in, your audience will get in the game (you might not be sure how but they will!). You must lead this game by pushing users to create positive feedback through engagement/ endorsement/ advocacy and eventually purchase intent.

OK pretty obvious, but how? Of course, training, strategic thinking, pro activity and reactivity are all actions that you will need but what is the magic factor that will make it happen?

To me, without a doubt success in social media is linked to three simple words: utility/ value/ entertainment

There are a lot of great campaign examples, such as Burger King Whooper Sacrifice, Tourism Queensland Best Job in the world, Virgin LA-4321, Old Spice, Cannon EOS Photo chain, Best Buys Twelpforce, Ikea Facebook catalogue, Gap Groupon promotion, etc…

Look no further, one way or another all those campaigns are based on one or more of these three magic words! The marketers at the origin of those activations brought to life a strong element of utility and/or value and/or entertainment. On top of that, they have leveraged the fundamentals of social media by letting people own their campaigns.

Firstly, they perfectly analyzed and understood their audience’s social media usage. Accurate insight is the very basic requirement for building engagement. You must know what users do in order to infiltrate and add, improve or influence their behaviors.

They were also ahead of the curve and came up with unique and ground breaking ideas. This is a must in social media: average doesn’t take off.

Finally, because they believed in the power of their strategies, they went ahead without compromising and focused their efforts and resources in developing best in class executions. Unfortunately, diminishing initial creative ideas is a mistake that still happens too often due to the difficulties in evaluating return on investment in social media.

Over the last couple of years a handful of campaigns stood out for me. I have briefly summarized some of them below. As you will see the results and awards speak for themselves.

Burger King Whooper Sacrifice

Burger King - Social Media Case Study

  • The insight: the majority of your social network connections do not belong to your close circle of friends and family. Only 9% of your Facebook connections are friends you would call to go out for a beer. This percentage goes down to 3% on Linkedin and 0.3% on Twitter*.
  • The business problem: sell more burgers!
  • The campaign: trade each of your unwanted Facebook friends for $0.37 worth of fast food.
  • The results**: even though Facebook considered the Burger King application to breach the privacy regulations (“de-friending” notification messages) and eventually pushed Burger King to discontinue the campaign, it was a major success.  In about 2 weeks nearly 234,000 Facebookers were “de-friended” for the sake of a hamburger and Burger King capped Whooper coupons to 25,000.

This is an old campaign but still one of my favorite! Burger King brilliantly turned the consumer insight into a useful, fun and valuable application, no surprise that users jumped on it and we still talk about it years later…

Best Buys Twelpforce

  • The insight: customers want to access help service the way that suits them best.
  • The business problem: how to deliver “dream support”? Ultimately the goal was to increase business and customer loyalty.
  • The campaign: use the strength of the Best Buys sales specialists and customer service representatives and enlist a legion of them to respond to questions and concerns about Best Buys products and services that arise in the Twitter stream.
  • The results***: after three months of activity (supported by a TV launch) the Twelpforce had grown from 400 to 2,200 Best Buys employees. They had responded to over 13,000 public questions, concerns, and opinions. The Twitter feed @twelpforce now counts over 29,000 followers and the number of questions averages 100-125 per day. This campaign won the 2010 Bronze Cyber Lion award in Cannes.

The great thing about this campaign is that Best Buys did encourage their employees to actively take part in the program. They provided training and guidelines and gave them a voice to express their passion and knowledge. Spontaneity, involvement was all it took to get this project to fly… What a useful and valuable tool for the customers, and for the employees!

Gap & Groupon back to school promotion

  • The insight: break back to school sales record
  • The business problem: break through in the midst of back to school offers and drive more customers to Gap stores nationally.
  • The campaign: 50% discount exclusively available through Groupon: get $50 worth of Gap apparel and accessories for $25 only.
  • The results****: the volume of takers was immediate and massive: nearly 300,000 purchases on the first day. This is Groupon’s best seller ever! (about 10 Groupons per second).

Gap is clearly heading into social and geo localization and is putting its marketing powerhouse behind it. It was the first retailer to launch a massive 25% discount on Foursqaure earlier in September and then moved on to this partnership with Groupon. One might argue that such discounts are not necessary and have a huge cost to Gap but I think that the buzz and learnings generated by the campaign will be very valuable for the future of the business.

Canon EOS photo chain

  • The insight: the photographers community is made of various levels: from total beginners to professionals.
  • The business problem: how to position Canon DSLR products at the heart of the photographers’ community?
  • The campaign:  photo chain is an online platform where each shot taken by an individual inspires the next. It’s about a community of photographers working together and contributing their photos to keep the chains alive and growing.
  • The results: throughout the campaign 18,709 images were uploaded, while photo chains images have been viewed almost 2 million times and 19,271 people signed up as members of the Canon EOS website.

This campaign won the 2010 IAB Australia social media award.

This is a beautiful creation from which emerged an active community. It is a fantastic way to produce earned content and build advocacy naturally. Definitely worth checking out, some of the images are stunning!


To finish off, I would say that when implementing a social media campaign, think of yourself as a user. As simple as that: evaluate your idea by asking yourself if you would engage with it? If the answer is yes: define your measurement metrics, set up organization processes within your team, a listening platform and go for it. Test and experiment…. and remember the 3 words, the 3 magic words: utility/ value/ entertainment


*Publicis worldwide research 2009

** Adweek

*** Quotes from John Bernier, a Social Media Manager at Best Buys

**** Quotes from Julie Mossler a spokeswoman for Groupon

Jye Smith is currently Senior Vice President, Head of Strategy & Operations, Asia Pacific at Weber Shandwick. Ranked in B&Ts 30 Under 30, Jye a regular keynote speaker and workshop facilitator who specialises in digital and social media strategist.

There are 14 comments for this article
  1. Gavin Heaton at 10:39 am

    The groupon thing is going to be huge – but Australian retailers have traditionally been slow to move into ecommerce. It looks like a great opportunity for a big player to step in and own the lot (or for an agile player to slip in quickly).

    You’re right about the ” think of yourself as a user” idea. But marketers already think they do this. Often I ask people what they’d do if they received that offer when they are surfing the web at home. Or if their partner asked them to check it out online. It’s amazing the way that a trusted perspective can change what you think is effective.

  2. Oscar at 11:11 am

    I’m intrigued that “diminishing initial creative ideas is a mistake that still happens too often due to the difficulties in evaluating return on investment in social media”. Are you able to elaborate or give an example?

    Could complacency be a factor? If an agency produces a kick-ass campaign that’s an unqualified success, it would be tempting to rest on their laurels. On the contrary, something like the Old Spice campaign generated huge numbers with the videos, then knocked it out of the park with the twitter segment. I imagine the twitter phase was planned from the get-go, so perhaps campaigns need to plan for the desirable contingency of success.

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