Some Examples of Failed Social Media Campaigns in India

Advani Election Campaign, 2009

L. K. Advani launched an aggressive ad words campaign targeting every Indian site. His ad were there on almost every second site one visited. Even if it projected BJP and Advani as the political fixtures using contemporary technologies to communicate with the masses, the campaign was largely advertisement campaign. Reasons why it failed to gain traction –

No interactive media – It was simply a branding campaign about a party and person who have been in forefront of Indian politics since ages. Social Media campaigns typically thrive on appeal, uniqueness, involvement it offers to the audience. In the absence of all these creative features it was simply a dud.

Dettol India Online Contest 2012

Dettol India launched a campaign specifically targeting the confident Indian male. The challenge was named “End of the Day Confidence Challenge”. It was a Facebook contest, where in the brand asked the men that if they are still confident by end of the day. Anyone who think that he was confident after 5 PM could post his picture or video. People would “Like” the picture or video and highest liked feature stood a chance of winning Adidas gift voucher worth INR 5,000.

The contest sounded interesting and promising but did not prove to be one. Some of the reason for failure were –

1) No product involvement – The gift vouchers belonged were of Adidas. It could have been more promotional to give Dettol gift vouchers.

2) Unclear message – Just posting a message of how you felt after 5 PM did not show any significance of any Dettol product.

3) Screening by online users – No one was sure of what were the mechanism to deal with bogus “Likes”. People knew this and criticised for the short sightedness.
4) Violation of Facebook guidelines – The Facebook page showed two options – to enter the contest and another to view the entries. Once a person would have posted his picture of video it was posted on his behalf on his Facebook timeline. This was clearly against the Facebook guideline of use. This also invited rebuke from online users.
Ford Figo Online Contest 2012

On the occasion of completing two years in India Ford Figo launched campaign celebrating its 2nd birthday during entire March of 2012. The celebration in the form of a contest called “B’Day 2 Remember” could be seen on Figo’s website as well as social media such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.

Contest page showed some interesting videos in the form of invite and asked you to join. To join the contest one had to –

1) Invite 5 more friends and spread the word about birthday party.

2) Tweet invitation to increase your chances of winning.

3) Fill up a form with a birthday message.

The basic idea of the campaign was quick, simple and “inviting” but it failed to generate traction. Reason being –

Screening by the users. The app flouted the Facebook guidelines and did not ask for permission before posting it to user timelines. Also there was no clear information about how the contest was going to be judged. This could not escape the notice of users and slowly campaign lost its credibility.

Yet another example of alertness of social media users!!


How one should calculate ROI of Social Media Campaign?

Return on investment (ROI) is a commonly used business metric that is used to check the efficiency of a business initiative. Like any other operations and marketing campaigns it can be applied to Social Media campaigns too. It basically calculates the profitability of an investment or effort compared with its original cost.

The method is –

ROI = (Gains from Investment – Cost of Investment) / Cost of Investment

Cost of Investment encompasses every penny that directly or indirectly goes into the business initiative. Thus for social media it will be consultant’s fee, costs associated for buying accounts on internet, costs of software and tools, costs involved in shipping goods purchased because of social media, any other cost involved in fulfilling a transaction which happened because of social media campaign.

Gains are direct or indirect monetary returns which happened only because of social media marketing campaign.

It should be noted that any cost or any profit which could have occurred even if the social media campaign in discussion did not happen, should not be considered for computing ROI.

It is usually feasible and easier to break the cost and returns in a specific time frame by averaging out over that period. For example, it will be easier to study expenses and revenue under various heads per month by calculating average values over a month. Month in this example is a feasible time frame for which data is directly available and it’s more or less repeatable. Other time frames like quarters, year can be considered if that is feasible.

Sometimes the returns or benefits are not tangible nor direct i.e. their monetary benefits are long term and cannot be computed directly. It is best to decide some baseline to translate these benefits to sales or other monetary gain over the long term. Then these monetary gains can be averaged on a feasible time frame as discussed above. Some examples of the intangible benefits are –

Increased traffic to website
Increase in number of online conversations having positive connotation to your product
Increased references to your company vs. your competitor
Increased number of people bookmarking your website
Increased number of people posting to your blog, Facebook wall or Twitter

For calculating the returns, the key is to find out the total transactions (indirect too) which contribute. And what are the monetary number associated with them. By simply multiplying the number of transactions with monetary values give the total return.

Costs are fairly simple to calculate if we follow the strict rule of isolating all the costs involved which are happening because campaign is in place.

Thus, once cost and returns are clear ROI can be computed using the formula mentioned above.

Does a campaign’s success in social media guarantee the brand’s success in overall marketing terms?



To understand whether social media marketing fulfils the purpose of overall marketing we need to understand the reason why social media marketing is done. Let’s take a look at some of the reasons –

1) Its cheap. Where a TV commercial based campaign which costs anywhere around 250,000 dollars in USA, social media marketing campaign can be carried out in 25,000 dollars. That’s just one-tenth.

2) Need to draw attention of the customers by starting a viral, popular idea or concept. Which is going to add to the brand recall.

3) Want to issue a bold statement that you are a forward looking company which understands the trends and like to move with the times.

4) To involve more and more customers by innovative and interactive methods and implicitly educate them about your products.

5) Spread publicity about the product by utilizing the network effect of social media.

6) Build credibility by proving fair in the screening effect. Social media users do not restrict themselves to sharing information about a product as it is communicated by the company. They tend to voice their opinion along with it and often ending up with bursting a brands popularity. Brands strongly committed with fairness in their communication can utilize this effect to build credibility and thus following.


So those were some of the reasons why brands want to join the social media marketing bandwagon.


Yes, one seemingly obvious reason appears to be missing. That reason is – To build brand awareness.


Building brand awareness is a difficult task when it comes to social media marketing. The digital space rides the wave of trends and simple fact of what’s interesting and what’s not. People tend to remember what and not who. Many brands have tried and some have survived it too but empirical data goes against it. Even, for the brands which have seen success in doing it have been successful with a limited niche segment.


Yet another way in which social media marketing does not translates into actual sales is because users online usually speak as their ideal self, what they aspire to be and not necessarily what they actually do. Comparison of Cheerio and Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes reveals this phenomenon.


Thus need for conventional ways of marketing still exists. Mere social media marketing does not ensures that all the aspects of marketing are taken care of.


Lets look at it from typical marketing management 4P framework’s viewpoint –


Product – Yes you can study, trends, what people actually want and then shape your product. Social media does help here. For e.g. Waze, customers help build most of the product.


Promotion – Yes, except for building brand awareness, it can be used to generate brand recall.


Place – Generally difficult as usually the product is physical and delivery cannot be governed by social media users. In case of digital products yes it is possible.


Price – Rarely, in case of auctioning model. But not very successful examples are available.



Thus for social media to efficiently encompass all the marketing activites looks difficult.  It may be successful in executing some of them upto certain extent but all of them together is a long shot.


How is social media marketing different from conventional marketing communication?  


With the whole lot of people aggregating together to exchange the information, the dynamics of information spread changes and thus social media marketing trickily distinguishes itself from conventional marketing.


Below are some key differences between social media marketing (SM) and conventional Marketing (CM)


CM – Uniform, structured and clear. There are planned advertising campaigns with a set objective, clear directions and precise message. One does not change course depending upon the public reaction or opinion. The vehicle options are also limited to TV commercial, print media etc. conventional and figured out.

SM – Dissected, spread and unclear. It evolves over a period of time. You may need to put in corrective measures for the growing public opinion. Multiple options to showcase are present, there are plethora of websites and platforms – Twitter, Facebook, blogs, discussion forums etc.



CM – Unidirectional. Communication happens from a company to customer. Whatever company wants to communicate to the customers it does it straight. Primarily, information flows unadulterated towards the customers. This is in conjunction with simple signalling in marketing.

SM – Multidirectional. Initially, communication happens from a company to customer. But afterwards, it grows from one person to another. The underlying objective of the campaign is to involve as much customers as possible in the conversation. And as the information passes it is actively screened too.


CM – Long-range scheduling. Actions taken according to predetermined steps and planning. The outcomes of the campaign are also very predictable, at the very least direction can be understood whether it is failing or succeeding.

SM – Spontaneous, self-propagating. As the information flows from a person to person opinions get mixed. The product becomes popular or a dud. In fact, the art of social media marketing is in cracking this very nature to promote your brand.


CM – Specific. The communication is targeted towards a particular segment of customers. Company knows the customer profile and tweaks the campaign accordingly to attract the segment. Segments other than target segment may not be even communicated to.

SM – Random. Although, company would always start by targeting a particular segment more or less, but campaign can soon grow to encompass other segments. Information is generally available over the Internet and this is usually the phenomenon that new segments may emerge or people from one segment jump to the other or simply further unexpectedly other segments start getting attracted.


CM – Traditional know how and experience is required. Company need to run successive campaigns on the traditional mediums. There are not many different techniques or technologies to be handled or combined creatively to build an experience. Legal position is relatively simple, easy to understand and follow.

SM – Alternative, innovative experience is required. Rapidly evolving technical landscape. Companies have to be versed with them to effectively utilize them. Focus is on creatively bringing different technologies together to make it more attractive to the customer and convey appropriate message. It’s more experimental and that makes its legal position more unassured.

How do you compare Twitter and Facebook as tools of social media marketing?

To understand and contrast Twitter and Facebook as social media marketing platforms, it is important to understand the basic differences first.

Twitter –

Hobby – Primarly, it is meant for people to voice their opinions. You do it only because you like it. 140 characters give users a short and succint oppportunity to express their view about anything from happenings around, politics, filmdom, to what they feel about products and things they come across in their daily lives.
Reactive – It thrives upon what is happening in the world around you on both the micro and macro level. If there are no events or products to stimulate writing, there would be nothing to “tweet” about.
Sleak – The idea is simple, the features are limited and thus the entire design and capabilities remain lean. Its much easier to notice things too.
Facebook –

Chore – It’s like a daily dose of social interaction. You are on it because of your need for social interaction. A way to connect with friends and family with whom you may find interacting difficult otherwise. The primary goal is to maintain a profile and sending out updates in the world about whta you like or don’t, of where you are, what you are doing.
Proactive – The underlying theme is itself sharing glimpses of your life unlike Twitter where it is to voice you opinions about events surrounding you. You don’t need any stimulus to write or post on Facebook and mere day to day experiences of life are worth appreciating and sharing.
Cluttered – Yeah, it is. With sharing different aspects of your life comes different ways of doing it such as text, pictures, video, status, notifications, groups and discussions etc. And when every one is doing teh same and you are recieveing notifications, it can get a little nasty. You mind can easily stary off from one information to another.

For the very basic differences mentioned above, the leverage marketing can get using these platforms is also different.

Twitter, facilitates real time communications. People voice their opinions which can go viral. Because its a hobby and one can disguise himself, what people write is usually their honest thinking. The upheavels are uasually short lived and trends are not concrete. The spurt of positive and negative voices can be traced and related individuals can be directly targeted and contacted to address the situation. It gives comapny a lean landscape to mine for opinions which are floating around, in real time. This real time communication system can also be altered in parallel with other events to generate traction in the marketing campaign. Moreover, this leavel of identificationa and reach to the customers can be use to help customer service. Trends on Twitter are usually short lived, supported by viralism and does not provide a longterm and concrete insights.
Facebook, gives a very neat way to profile a cusotmer. Due to the very social nature of Facebook, it is difficult for the user to fake profiles. And thus the information available pertaining to customer profile is relevant and reasonably credible. Thus, it is a good medium for target marketing. Connections and likes provide a rich data to mine for trends and target segmments. Deducing from the activeness and the number of connections can help you identify the people who can prove brand ambassador to your brand. Proactive nature allows you to peek inside a person’s hstage of life and priorities and again give an opportunity to do targeted marketing.

Why is thesis of screening important for social media marketing?

In traditional scenarios, when the concepts of internet, Web 2.0, social media etc. did not exist, a firm could study customer requirements and build a product accordingly. Bringing the product to market involved a marketing scheme in which customer was educated about the product by the firm only. The uniqueness of the product, the benefits one could derive, and the performance parameter were all communicated directly by the firm to the potential customers. With this the firms had an advantage of cleverly and silently hiding the unwanted attributes or at least the features which will make it less relevant. The firms could divide the market into different segments and smartly design the 4Ps – Pricing, Promotion, Place and Product – specifically for these different segments. For example, two cars built on the same platform but branded differently could be sold to different customers with different pricing and different value propositions. As long as there was no information spillage between the two segments they could be educated differently about the product satisfying the key requirements of segments respectively. In return a monetary or other premium such as brand loyalty could be extracted. Typically the firm informed or signalled the consumer about the attributes of the product.

With the coming of Internet and especially collaboration and networking it brought along with it, information flow became unrestricted. Social media – blogs, networking websites, discussion boards, content sharing systems etc. – has created an ecosystem where information can be created, distributed, recieved and analyzed in a matter of minutes. One can as easily plug into this ecosystem as easily “Google” (search) for it. There is constant information spillage between conventional consumer segments. As a matter of fact, the segments are becoming fluid as people have easy exposure to other people’s personas and they get influenced and shape their personas easily. Today before assimilating any marketing information (signalling) by the firm, consumers validate and evaluate it from every angle. For example, reviews of a product online are looked for and believed more than the advertisements by the firm. People easily get the information about competing products from the discussion board. Only after verifying from different sources, a customer decides to purchase the product. In such a scenario the whole idea of understanding a product changes from signalling by the firm to screening by the customers. Effectively customers are becoming more informed, vigilant and wielding of their requirements.

With such a phenomenal transformation of marketing priorities, it is imperative that social media marketing strategies are built to leverage on this transformation or at least safeguard against failures arising from it.

Some of the example ways in which screening can be utilized by a company includes –
1) Understanding trends and values important to customers from the data collected from discussion boards, reviews.
2) Building credibility around brand by withstanding strong screening.
3) Forcing comparison with the rival products and proving yours to be superior.
4) Crowdsourcing of ideas for product itself.

All in all, a company should use social media as a marketing space only when it is absolutely comfortable and prepared for the screening by consumers. It is an inevitable phenomenon of a platform which brings together millions of potential customers but open seamless and countless means of transparent information exchange.