Cisco Tries to Copy Old Spice’s YouTube Success

10 Ways to Fail at Social Media

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then Old Spice’s cross platform social media campaign starring towel-clad hunk, Isaiah Mustafa, received another accolade. Old Spice’s ubiquitous 180+ YouTube video effort was bound to spurn copycats each hoping to go viral. The first big-time impersonator wasn’t a small, unknown firm but rather NASDAQ heavyweight Cisco Systems which created eighteen YouTube videos starring “Ted from Accounting” and yielded a few thousand combined YouTube views. Appearing more amateurish than Old Spice’s video parodies, Cisco’s low quality efforts are a crash course in how not to do social media.

10 Ways to fail at social media

For executives and marketers who are reluctant to provide necessary budget and headcount to social media marketing because its “that stuff we can get for free”, Cisco’s copycat version of Old Spice’s runaway social media viral success provides a teachable moment.  Here are 10 pitfalls to avoid while moving your social media efforts forward.

  1. Isn’t useful or entertaining enough to engage prospects, customers and/or the general public. Cisco, a provider of quality technical products, received quite a bit of attention for its videos’ poor quality. By contrast, the Old Spice YouTube videos were just plain funny, making viewers want to see more of them.
  2. Doesn’t leverage the power of communities, individuals’ social graphs and/or social sharing to extend reach. Cisco initiated this effort on their blog which had insufficient reach to garner much attention.
  3. Exists in a vacuum without other marketing support. To be most effective, social media needs to be integrated into a well thought out marketing plan. In this way, it can leverage other aspects of the marketing mix.
  4. Misses opportunity to present and/or mention Cisco’s brand and/or product. Every Old Spice video and interaction reinforced the brand and product in a way consistent with its earlier, award winning television ads. By contrast, Cisco’s videos didn’t support the brand in any coordinated, meaningful way.
  5. Doesn’t resonate or interact with Cisco’s target market or its influencers. Placing a nerd in a toy filled bathroom didn’t appeal to Cisco’s customers or their influencers. With only 4,000 views, Cisco was lucky its core market didn’t see how it missed the mark.
  6. Hinders interaction with prospects and the public through the use of multiple Twitter accounts with unmemorable handles. (This is also discussed on Social Media Times.) Cisco should have tried to aggregate channels to enhance their reach.
  7. Doesn’t enhance Cisco’s brand or sales. Cisco’s eighteen videos had more in common with Old Spice’s brand than their own. Cisco could have created a fun social media campaign around “What’s a router?” or a comical teaching series mocking the intricacies of the data networking in terms that both the general public and their core users could understand.
  8. Underestimates Cisco’s spokesman’s importance to connect the brand with its target audience and relevant influencers. While Old Spice used a hunk who the brand’s primary influencers, women, considered eye-candy, Cisco presented a nerdy guy dressed in a shirt, tie and towel who was presumably from their accounting department. Certainly not an aspirational figure.
  9. Doesn’t utilize other social media platforms to cross promote the campaign. Old Spice started their campaign on Reddit and other social media sites before it hit YouTube. A better planned marketing strategy would have seeded the Cisco campaign across a variety of social media entities like Yahoo Answers and other Q&A sites as well as Twitter and social sharing sites.
  10. Doesn’t leverage other personnel across Cisco’s organization. This is an issue that many companies face. Social media marketing shouldn’t be limited to your marketing department. Social media requires input and interaction across the entire organization including sales, customer service, product management, senior executives and other departments to gather customer feedback.

Cisco’s copycat efforts underscore the need to ensure that your social media marketing efforts have sufficient resources and headcount. Remember that social media initiatives need an integrated plan to ensure they work with your other marketing and business activities. To protect your brand and your employees, it’s critical to have social media guidelines. As a teachable moment, the failure of these eighteen videos to create any buzz should help make the case for additional scope and budget for your social media campaigns.

Happy marketing,

Heidi Cohen


Photo credit: Phobia by Hans.Gerwitz via Flickr

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