I saw an announcement from Media in Canada today titled "Sears Trying CGM for Christmas Catalogue". Ooo, CGM – yay consumers! But alas, Tiny Tim, I got excited too soon. While checking out Sears.ca’s campaign, I encountered three very cranky Christmas Ghosts:
Ghost #1 "Voting" does not equal "CGM"
I read the Media in Canada article which basically said that Sears is letting customers vote on one of four pre-selected catalog covers (presumably) designed by their agency. CGM is Consumer Generated Media. The consumers have generated NOTHING here, except an email mailing list for future exploitation by Sears. It would be CGM if Sears committed to picking a design that was created by a consumer. I’m not sure if this is a mis-label by Media in Canada, or Sears.ca trying to play the "we do social media" card. Either way .. unfortunate.
Ghost #2 The complexity of the build should mirror the complexity of the task
I hopped over to the sears.ca site where there is a banner inviting visitors to vote. They are then taken to a Wishbook site (hosted on a URL at their agency – ugh) which is built entirely in Flash. There are a lot of fancy side-swipe effects, sound effects and an annoying Security Guard character. You can zoom on the 4 catalog covers which are still quite small even when zoomed. But here’s the thing. The task is to vote on one of four images. This is not rocket science or brain surgery or any other complex metaphor. I’m guessing all this Flash was quite expensive and it does NOTHING to enhance the experience of voting on one of four pictures.
Ghost #3 Don’t be an interactive tease
This ghost is closely related to the one above. Security Guard guy hangs around the Wishbook site like a bad smell. He hums and shuffles a bit and peeks out coyly at you. But can you interact with him? NO! So why create him? To give the *illusion* of interaction? We are not fooled. The standard in interactive character development is Subservient Chicken. If you can’t at least plant 1 lousy easter egg in your faux-interaction character, then just build static HTML. It WILL be a better experience for your customer.
So, here’s what I would have done:
1. Create a real URL. Say, 2007SearsWishbook.com
2. Put up a branded static page that says something like:
- Hey, we’re tired of predictable Wishbook covers. We bet you are too. This year, we want to feature your holiday photo, illustration or design on our Wishbook. To enter our contest, simply upload your photo, illustration or design (the one you *must* have rights to) to our Flickr group
- When selecting a photo, illustration or design to enter, you might want to consider that it is vertically oriented and will have a bunch of words on the cover. Make sure your photo, illustration or design accommodates this. Like the one here on the right.
- When uploading your photo, include a description of why you chose this image to represent the Sears Christmas Wishbook.
- When you upload you photo, make sure you tag it "2007searswishbook" That helps us find it and ensures others can find it too.
- Your photo, illustration or design needs to be of sufficiently high resolution for printing. 300 dpi.
- Your photo must be uploaded by June 15, 2007.
- The winner (chosen by a jury that includes a couple of Sears marketing people, an agency person, the head of customer service and the top 3 SearsClub points holders) will have their photo, illustration or design on the cover of the 2007 Sears Wishbook that is distributed to 4 million households in Canada. They’ll also get a nice framed version of the cover. And some kind of gift certificate to Sears.ca. Maybe a new fridge.
3. Include some legal stuff from the lawyers. Something like … "We reserve the right to refuse and remove any photo according to our whim, but mainly rude or pornographic images. Our choice will seem arbitrary. Sorry."
6. See what happens. I will bet dollars to donuts that a large percentage (say 40% as a random guess) of the submissions Sears.ca would get, would be better than what the agency will come up with.
OK .. here’s my request for your help:
1. Blog this, digg this, mention it, criticise it, build on it (for example, I also would have encouraged Sears to start a blog to feature on a regular basis some of the best stories and photos .. but I didn’t have time to do that. Maybe you do?)
2. Find your best Wishbook-y photo and upload it to the group.
I don’t know if this will go anywhere or not, but here’s why I’m doing this. I’m tired of crappy marketing. I’m tired of a practice area and an industry that I actually care about being dominated by old ideas and agencies who are afraid to experiment. I believe in the power of citizen marketers and the genuine potential of co-creation, and I want to big boys to believe too.
Merry Christmas and God Bless Us Everyone.