Two Approaches: Shotgun vs Laser

Companies approach social in one of two ways: The first way, companies experiment with little order or goals, the second way, companies have clear goals and intend to invest in a deeper relationship.

1) Shotgun: Toyota’s Yaris Campaign Spreads Chances
While experimentation is always important, companies must do so in the context of a goal, whether it’s to test and learn, or just to prove to management it can be done. Take for example Toyota’s latest campaign, which is much akin to interactive marketing or advertising (not social engagement), where they’ve funded eight agencies to spend $15,000 only on their social marketing campaigns. The goal is to see who can make it work and stick, then they’ll spend more money with the firm that achieves ‘viral’ growth. This shotgun approach has caught the criticism of Laurel Papworth, she’s right at vegas, this is called spreading your bets on the roulette table.

2) Laser: Ford’s Fiesta Movement Amplifies a Smaller Target
On the other hand, take for example the competitive car, the Ford Fiesta, which also plays the young hip efficient car for today’s youth. Ford’s approach was more focused, they put most of their eggs into reaching only 100 drivers that were social savvy influencers to get them to spread the word. This “Fiesta Movement” (NYT) was targeted at social influencers, empowered them although it’s unknown what the final impacts of the expensive loaner car program is.

Web Strategy Matrix: Social Marketing Approaches, Shotgun vs Laser

Shotgun Laser
Description Hiring multiple agencies to conduct social campaigns Building a deeper relationship with a core group of influencers
Similar to Interactive Advertising, “Fishing” Influencer Relations, ‘Friending”
Benefits Efficient way to get started, identify hot spots to pursue. Deeper relationships with core influencers who may spread word of mouth, and become brand evangelists.
Risks Brand burnout on community, risk of appearing disingenuous Spending more resources on a smaller few reduces chances of spread.
Costs Inexpensive. In this case, it was 15k X 8 agenices, for a total of 120k. Costly. Relationship marketing estimated 50-100k in agency costs. Loaning 100 economy cars at 15k each around 1.5 million.
Takeaway Ideal for the company that doesn’t understand social marketing and is willing to test on their own customers. Ideal for company that’s ready to invest time, people and money on relationships.

Brands Should First Start With Understanding Customers

So which way is better? First, let’s start with the most important factor, people. While padding the top line for revenues in a slumping economy continues to be important, it’s important to note that burning out your relationships with your community can cause long-term drain. Rather than test eight campaigns on a community causing ‘brand overload’, first do the research to find out the social behaviors (we call this SocialGraphics), identify who they trust online, and where they are located at online before doing anything. By first starting with data, you can reduce eight campaigns to two, or maybe one, and avoid burning out your brand –and community.

So what does this means to Toyota and Ford?  Toyota’s social efforts come across as young, they’re not sure what they’re doing so they’re hoping to see which (interactive+advertising) agency will figure it out for them.  On the other hand, Ford comes across as slightly more mature as having true influencer relationships (Similar to PR Influence Relations) and spend the time to build these real-world relationships.

Update: Thanks to Barbara for the “Fishing vs Friending” analogy.  Apparently the CEO of Ford read this post, welcome, an honor.

43 Replies to “Two Approaches: Shotgun vs Laser”

  1. An articulate summary Jeremiah with an intelligent comparison between young and old and maturity. I think it’s worth noting that the general consumer may remain oblivious- if the short term non strategic engagement is ‘fun’ they may not care. A little bit like TV ads – ‘Do you like TV ads’ has a different response than ‘what’s your fave TV ad’. In other words, Toyota campaign participants may enjoy a campaign without signing up for long term engagement 🙂
    Which is pretty well what you said 🙂 thanks for the link!
    Laurel @silkcharm

  2. An interesting contrast indeed.

    I think Toyota’s biggest risk in taking this strategy is that the metrics for success are likely to drive the wrong behaviours (and the wrong sort of campaign).

    That’s exactly what happened with Pizza Hut’s Viral campaign. They paid a viral agency on number of views. As a result the agency went for something rather outlandish – ordering Pizza Hut deliveries into Mom&Pop Pizza Parlours. This got lots of views, but for all the wrong brand reasons:

    Here’s more detail (it’s quite unbelieveable):


  3. I would say that Toyota did the right thing by trying out a few channels first, the risk of disenchantment with a customer base as diverse as theirs seems unlikely.

    What is totally unforgivable is not having a goal when starting ANY activity, they should have known better. Good post – look forward to the next.


  4. I’m in favor of the laser in this case if only for the power of the specific evangelists involved. The car isn’t even out yet and I know about it. That says more then anything else.

  5. Great comments and insights by Jeremy and by Laurel.

    I am still amazed me at how many people are going direct to technology (ie. a Twitter account) without any real understanding of who their intended audience really is and what the behavioural attributes of the intended audience is across all media & channels, let alone ™social media / networking™.

    A great example is the almost single minded focus on tools / platforms like Twitter & Facebook. We see so many mistargeted campaigns because:

    A) Agency was simply ticking the social media tools checklist,
    B) The agency / marketer don™t understand why (behavioural attributes) their intended audience is using social media and social networks and comes up with something foreign to that behaviour and use,
    C) The agencies / marketers don™t understand the behavioural and demographic characteristics of the existing users of those respective social networks / digital channels and therefore the audience they are after isn™t even there to begin with or uses it for other misaligned reasons.

    You have to wonder how so many ˜marketers™ and agencies are forgetting that the fundamentals of marketing haven™t changed in terms of clearly identifying and understanding your intended audience “ first and foremost “ and whatever comes out of strategy development and objectives setting will obviously inspire / dictate ideas & tactics and then comes technology & channels. Everyone is getting it arse around and putting the technology and channels first and applying ideas & tactics over the top. This is not to say Twitter might not help your social media program but in some cases in Australia (as active Twitter use is so minimal in mainstream audiences) it might be useful simply for reaching and engaging with influencers and not with the intended end user directly.

    Once again, I also wonder how many of these agencies and marketers actually listened into the social media streams; benchmarked them, mapped the ecosystems of conversations and influencers and understood what was being said and what the sentiment was “ before they even started strategy planning let alone execution? (Benchmark reports and a few months of monitoring are also invaluable business intelligence for other more ˜traditional™ marketing efforts.

    As you say, there is nothing wrong with experimenting but how can you do that without even listening and benchmarking the social streams first? I would also be very curious to understand what the specific objectives for each of these campaigns are? I also think that they are fundamentally flawed anyway, because as I and many others have been saying for 3 years now “ Social Media is a commitment, not a campaign.

    Scott Monty, Head of Social Media at Ford had a simple goal to begin with “ It was our goal to be the #1 social automotive brand within three years. We achieved it in 6 months. Once they did this along with a rigorous measurement and analytics approach they began to roll out specific programs like the Ford Fiesta Movement. But Ford didn™t begin ˜marketing™ in the social media streams until they first achieved their social media brand goal foundation. This foundation allowed them to clearly understand the behaviour and behavioural attributes of their intended audiences “ a solid base for developing strategy, programs and value. Ford also developed a clear and consistent content strategy and an engaging, transparent & authentic relationship with their audience base. Without these foundations it would have been near impossible to garner the interest and groundswell in the Fiesta Movement without the support of a lot of paid media to inspire and energise the conversations. The Fiesta movement was done without significant investments in ATL to inspire the initial groundswell.

    I would also be keen to know how many working on those social media ˜campaigns™ for Toyota have actually studied the Ford example, followed Scott Monty or read any of his presentations? Learn from the best they say!

    Here is a link to Scott Monty™s Ford Social Media Strategy PowerPoint:

    And here is a link to demonstrate the social media chasm between Ford and its competitors:

  6. I liked the chart as an addition. It highlighted the dilemma of introducing social media to established brands. Traditional approach – shotgun – is more top down and it may prove interesting if Toyota then takes the next step into building relationships in social media, rather than substituting as advertising media.

    Following your thinking and enjoying the perspective you bring.

  7. One really has to wonder what the pursuit of impressions might leave behind at the end of the day. Sure, anyone can spread a message, but what that message does makes all the difference.

    Toyota is taking considerable risk beyond spreading their bets across the roulette wheel. They are spreading their bets, without appreciating that the better payout is on the numbers (35 to 1) rather than playing zones (3 to 1). Where as one of these agencies might have more hits in a zone, the one they don’t choose might actually lead to more outcomes. Good piece.

    All my best,

  8. One thing not mentioned in your post is that you are comparing an Australia-based Toyota campaign with a North America-based Ford campaign. Is it fair to suggest an apples-to-apples comparison? While one might argue that on the social web companies should not be bound geographically, and a brand should represent itself globally, in practice the organizational requirements to integrate with a one brand perspective may be the toughest transition of all.

  9. It’s possible the executives at companies like Toyota aren’t having the hard conversations. What do we want and what are our benchmarks are part of it, but so is ‘who are our customers and what do THEY want?’

    It seems like they had that at one point (I love what you do for me, Toyota!), but then forgot to go back and do it again before this new campaign.

    I know that I have worked with clients who say they want to be in social media who haven’t even figured out why they want to be there and who they want to speak with.

  10. Jennifer, Maybe, the behaviors for each culture and the tools they adopt vary by region and culture. Yet for this analysis, the approaches aren’t as important as the region, either company could have done either shotgun or laser in their respective geographies.

  11. I wonder, though, if the laser approach can be a touch patriarchical. When a company decides it knows best who the ideal customer is, those who don’t fit the “mold” can get miffed at a perceived exclusion.

  12. Shotgun or Laser, regardless, both are wholly ineffective. Shotgun is too general and misses too much, what appeals to everybody, appeals to none. Laser is too narrow-cast, morphing and cementing into elitist entitlement groups, never breaking beyond, with the so-called “relationships” lasting as long as the freebie perks are always incoming.

    And trying to group role-cast classify, only gets you so far, and traditional demographics, have become more blended, people playing many differing roles.

    So what then is the answer? That’s where case-by-case “strategy” comes in, it’s not a science, and not even an art, mere intuition, blind-luck batting-average of .300 is flying high. And you can’t even go by cliché-of-the-century “know your customer”, as you have to know customers you don’t yet have, just “knowing your customer” will Dead-Sea salt you in. The answer is that there is no answer.

  13. Yes Yaris was a shotgun approach with a bunch of stunts, but at least Toyota paid them all for the pitch… or was it a pitch?

  14. @Jeremiah, Excellent post. if you have many social media agencies working for your company, there is lots of chance, the campaign will go out of control.Its very difficult to strike a unified strategy across different agencies

  15. I’m going to have to slightly disagree with Christopher C’s comment that a laser approach is too narrow and leads to a brand following based on freebies. The success of Ford’s Fiesta campaign speaks for itself on the effectiveness of a targeted campaign. Though the test drivers received the cars on loan, which could be considered a temporary freebie, commentary on the campaign indicate that people are talking and getting excited about the Fiesta because of how the campaign enabled the test drivers to share their driving experiences and not because they received participation perks.

  16. I love this story because it highlights several key decision that large brands face when it comes to social media: budget, size, scope, objectives. This demonstrates very clearly that there is risk of backlash of serious misjudgments occur in these decisions.

    I believe that the Papworth™s criticisms stem from a correct assumption that Toyota underestimates the unique challenge of creating a successful social media brand as well how big a role strategy plays.

  17. This is a great comparison Jeremiah (crowd-sourcing vs. single sourcing) but it may lead one to believe that Toyota isn’t too smart when it comes to social media. In my mind, Toyota’s social work for the Prius was state-of-the-art. And they didn’t even have to give away cars. They targeted Posters who brought in the Pasters and the rest is history. Peace!

  18. My question would be:
    Why did the companies choose the individual approach? Who made the decision in the company?

    One might guess that the Toyota approach tries to avoid risk, that looks like it is influenced by the company culture. The Ford approach looks like a combination of a more risk embracing culture with the willingness to spend (and perhaps waste) a lot of marketing dollars with self-estimate as online knowledgeable.

    Good list, nicely thought provoking.

  19. Disclosure: I've been piloting one of the Fiesta's for 6 months.

    At first I calculated the program to be very expensive to Ford also, but the cars are being turned in later this month. Ford wasn't gifting 1.5 million worth of cars, they were loaning cars for 6 months that have a lease value near $140/mo. 140x100x6 = $84,000 a much more reasonable figure for the car portion.


  20. Thanks Jeremy. Good point, the cars have diminished value as they are now used, usually about 30% less of the value of the car, in addition to the lease value, but yes, I get your point.

    BTW: I hope you blog your overall experience, I'd love to read.

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