Personalising Social Media Marketing

grandpaIt is superbowl time soon in the US, as the annual buzz regarding the adverts seems to be picking up. A particularly interesting one seems to be the advert for Taco Bell, showing nursing home inhabitants “living it up”. I’m sure you can debate how good or bad the actual advert, to be screened this weekend – but prereleased online, really is – or in fact how sensible it is to have “teaser ads” to prepare you for the actual advert… but what is really quite amusing is how Taco Bell is using twitter to make the main character appear more human than just an actor (or your traditional spokes person). I concede, this isn’t quite anthropomorpisation, as it involves (well, sort of) real people, but having Grandpa Gold tweet about “spiking the oatmeal with prune juice” and “kicking off the New Year at my favorite restaurant” (which coincidentally does not seem to me to be Taco Bell, but I may be wrong there) is certainly taking the traditional “spokesperson” idea way beyond the established “I’m selling you something here” concept. In fact, at least if you read the twitter feed, there isn’t a single mention of Taco Bell anywhere. While in this case there is an (apparently) real octogenarian talking, the concept is really pretty similar to the beer giving you fashion advice on facebook. Both are interesting in that both are not selling you what they are supposed to sell, but rather behave like “your friends”, building brand relationships.

The interesting question is… do people fall for it? Even if they know that Grandpa isn’t just Grandpa? The amazing answer seems to be yes… and the reason for it can be found in cultivation theory. Shrum and colleagues have previously shown that people judge some likelihoods of events based on how easily they can recall an example of such an event. So, for example, how often do doctors resuscitate people after an accident? Well, if you are talking to a heavy television viewer, they are more likely to recall an example of such a scene (from the television programme). And despite knowing that “ER” (or whatever show) isn’t exactly real life, people who have watched a fictional programme recently are more likely to overestimate the number of  resuscitations (and accidents etc…). That is because they can recall an example quickly – and discount (or even disregard) the source credibility.

In other words, people who, for example, follow Gandpa Gold may not actually believe he is real – but what they are more likely to believe that there are some “real” Gandpa Golds out there, who… given the chance would go and live it up like Gandpa Gold does. How does this relate to brand image? Well … it’s a pretty new phenomenon and not much research has been done on it. But I’d speculate, based on cultivation theory research, that at least some of Gandpa Gold’s followers (most of whom don’t seem to be 80+ btw!) may think he is a rather funny “role model”… and after having established a relationship to him, even knowing he isn’t real, may act in some similar ways – like for example having a Saturday night at a certain Taco joint…

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