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03/18/2010 Microsite, Social Media or None of the Above?


It’s prom time and two clothing giants have launched campaigns aimed at building relationships with young women in high school. And selling dresses, of course. But Sears and Macy’s have taken different tradigital approaches to this year’s campaigns.

In the more traditional corner is Sears. They’ve built a microsite, complete with everything from a personal quiz to find the right dress, top 10 tips and a sweepstakes contest. It’s traditional because it builds on a concept of a microsite that’s been around for 5-10 years. The goal is to let people feel that this is more personalized through fun questions and a, somewhat unique, result. Think of it as a search-o-tainment.

The idea, of course, is that you get people spending so much time on the site that they’ll either turn that into commerce or they’ll spread the word for you. I used to love sites like this and I used to try to build as many as I could. Before social media, they were one of the best diversions online.

There are a couple of problems with this model today, though. The first is that you have to drive traffic to the site, and this costs marketing dollars. The dream is that the site will be so fantastic that word of mouth will drive traffic, but that rarely happens.

For the Sears site, it seems that they’ve put the usual suspects in the mix. The question is whether this type of site appeals to their audience. Face it: the personalization tools are pretty tame. The expert advice is somewhat expected. Despite the music, there’s not a lot of energy here, and if I think of high schoolers looking for prom dresses, I think energy. More importantly, there doesn’t seem to be a lot of interesting tidbits to pass on to your friends.

Flirtygirl
Macy’s takes a different approach, launching its campaign on Facebook instead of building a separate property. The built in advantage here is that Macy’s can spend less on outreach as they have a built in publicity tool in Facebook. The bigger question is (and I’m sure Macy’s is looking at their Facebook Fan stats) whether the younger audience is part of their 370,000+ fans.

When you look at Macy’s Prom page, there doesn’t seem to be a lot to it. Maybe it’s too early to tell. They’re trying to tie the Facebook activity to live events, which I think is smart. The challenge now is that there doesn’t look like there’s any activity there. And who wants to go to an empty party? The same is true with their hashtag #Prom2010 which, as far as I can tell, has one total tweet!

The combination of no pictures, no attendees and no Tweets makes it seem that this promotion launched prematurely. It doesn’t feel very personal either. Integrating marketing pushes in social media, like Coke, Unilever or Victoria’s Secrets does can be successful but you have to have the content to make it worthwhile.

I hope this is all too early to tell and that Macy’s does see some success with the social approach. But it seems that they’re missing some building blocks by connecting with stores, sales people and actual high school kids.

Maybe that’s the trouble with both of these: traditional, tradigital or social media, the campaigns feel very top-down and not so customer focused. In the end, it doesn’t really matter where you are from a marketing perspective. What really matters is that you’re providing value to your customers, hopefully in a way that feels personal.

I’d love to see some results from these campaigns in the months to come. But they both show an old truth: If you build it, they may not come.

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