‘Likes’ Through Incentives

Most of us desire fame and fan following. We want people to ‘Like’ us. We obviously make efforts (knowingly or unknowingly) to please people or at least not displease them. Celebrities go a step further. They hire publicists and image managers to help them maintain and increase their fan following. They do undertake initiatives that can please people. Brands are no exceptions. Brands want consumers to like them. Brands want consumers to follow them. Brands want to get recommended. Brands want to be famous. For decades marketers have been spending time, effort, and money so that they can persuade consumers to ‘like’, ‘follow’, and ‘recommend’ brands.

Given the hype around social in general and Facebook in particular, it is natural for marketers to put extra emphasis on proving that their brands are ‘liked’, followed, and recommended by consumers. CMOs now preside over meetings to set fan acquisition goals and track progress on a weekly basis. Since we operate in a fast moving world, it is assumed that consumers also need to move fast to ‘like’, follow, and recommend brands. As a result, entire marketing machinery is busy crafting strategies to rapidly increase the fan numbers. In recent months I have seen several brands offering incentives to rapidly increase ‘likes’ or ‘followers’ on social platforms. I personally think that such strategies can probably get short-term results that look good rather than getting good results that can help the brand in the long run.
One recent initiative caught my attention. I was a bit disappointed as I have great respect for both the brand and the marketers behind them. I have used this example to demonstrate a wider industry issue.
Surf Excel India is incentivising people to ‘like’ the Surf Excel brand page on Facebook. For every person who clicks the ‘like’ button, Surf Excel India promises to donate goods worth Rs. 11 (US$0.23) to NGOs. It is a charitable cause and there will be people who will hit the ‘like’ button so that the underprivileged can be helped. This initiative is called ‘Make a Difference with Surf Excel’.

I fail to understand whether this is a marketing initiative or part of some corporate social responsibility program or a marriage of both. I wonder what is the profile of fans acquired through an initiative like this. Do they really like Surf Excel and buy the brand? Do they really care about Surf Excel to recommend it to friends? Will they continue to follow Surf Excel after that one click to donate Rs. 11 to charity? And finally what will happen to them after this fan acquisition initiative is over? Above all, why does Surf Excel need people to ‘like’ its page for donating money to charity? Why can’t it do it anyways?

I also ‘liked’ the page so that Surf Excel can donate Rs. 11 to one of the NGOs. It immediately placed a Make a Difference App in front of me with a request to access my wall and other details. I declined it. I then wanted to go back to the Make a Difference Page but it wouldn’t let me open the page unless I allow access to the app. Why does Surf Excel need access to my basic info, get permission to send me emails, right to post on my behalf, and even my birthday? Needless to say it irritated me and I was very disappointed.

I will probably never go back to the page or have any relationship with the brand but I will be counted as one of the fans of Surf Excel India page on Facebook. And like me there will be thousands of people. The brand manager will certainly get a pat on the back for taking this initiative viral through an app. The agency will submit the case for creative, media, and even effectiveness awards. And unfortunately, life will move on.

AFR (Acquire Fans Randomly) virus is lethal and difficult to remove once you contract it. I’m not against putting focus on increasing fans for brand but I’m very much against acquiring them through random incentives and methods. If your brand genuinely adds value to people then you will actually have no problem in consistently growing your fan base and getting ‘likes’, followers, and recommendations.

(Originally published in ClickZ.Asia on 14 September 2011)