When TOMS Shoes emerged into the marketplace a few years ago, people could not buy their shoes fast enough. The concept came from an authentic place; when founder Blake Mycoskie visited Argentina, he was moved by the many barefoot children he saw living in poverty. He came home and decided to do a little good and founded TOMS on the one-for-one concept that he hoped other companies would follow. Simply put, when someone buys a pair of TOMS, the company donates a pair of shoes to a child in need.
People know authenticity when they see it. And they also know cynicism.
Because in 2010 when BOBS, a product of Skechers, showed up with its nearly identical product and identical vision, people (literally) weren’t buying it. It was such an obvious copycat and felt like greed wrapped up with a marketing bow.
There’s a lesson here at the micro level. If a loyalty program encourages people to Tweet and like and + 1 so that they earn points, eventually these people do not carry any weight in the marketplace. While they may be accumulating points and earning incentives, they are not accumulating loyalty from friends.
For example, if a person sees that a friend is Tweeting constantly about a restaurant, it soon becomes obvious that this “friend” has some kind of financial stake in this “advertisement.” This “friend” then loses all credibility not only in restaurant recommendations but also in any kind of recommendations. (Prepare yourself for lots of incoming Tweets with exclamation points!!) If we know people have a financial stake in our behavior, we feel the cynicism and discount their recommendations. People know the difference at a visceral level between a recommendation and a marketing ploy.
As always, it’s a good idea to encourage people with loyalty programs, but these should concentrate on customers’ individual shopping experiences and web site visits, not on how much traffic they can drive to your site through inauthentic Tweets and +1 and likes.
If people really like your product, they’re going to tell their friends anyway. You don’t need an app for that.