Whenever a company finds a new and successful way to reach a goal, or to reach a hard-to-get-to audience – many others follow quickly – copycatting the original company, often times with dismal results. In some cases, as is the case with word-of-mouth marketing, new entrants screw up the whole playing field for everyone.
There are three main reasons why copycatting does not always work. First off, many companies who copy others do so without really understanding what the real ingredients for success are. The second reason, which took down email marketing and potentially could take down word of mouth marketing for all of us is related to ethics and industry self-regulation in the absence of government guidelines. And the third one is that best practices are not always portable from one company to another.
The entry of Wal-Mart with a Myspace-like offering clearly falls into the first category (via adage – may require subscription). In an attempt to appeal to teens with something else than pencils and backpacks, Wal-Mart launched a social networking site called The Hub. The site is designed to allow teens (hubsters) to “express their individuality.” They can create their own page to show it to the world, and they can post hot-lists of songs and movies. They can even shoot and submit Wal-Mart related video clips and have a chance that it will be picked up as part of their TV advertising.
So far so good.
Except that they screen all content, email all parents requiring their consent for teens to put up a page, and forbid users to email with one another. Oh, and they reserve the right to modify the commercial created with the winning video…
And they call that a “GENIUS WEB DESTINATION?”
It is web alright, but where are the genius and the destination parts? If all goes well, they may win the top price for the “most uncool” social networking site!