Like twenty million other people this week, I got an email from LinkedIn lauding my popularity on the site. I am purportedly in the top 5% of viewed profiles, which puts me somewhere between the two-millionth and ten-millionth most popular (or most mysterious) person on LinkedIn.
I found it quite odd that LinkedIn would try to leverage a gamification tactic like this to get people to spend more time on site, particularly given its specific utility. And it got me wondering if we’re so accustomed to the velocity of change with technology that traditional product marketing may seem out-of place?
The curious case of Bing
When Microsoft brought in Mark Penn last year to increase Bing’s share of search, it seemed like an odd hire. Penn has a background in public relations. A few months later the “Bing it On” campaign was thrust upon the world, no doubt predicated upon the notion that Bing and Google (in their current iterations) are nearly indistinguishable from each other….. and 50% is better than 30%. This doesn’t appear to be as effective as Bing hoped, but the strategy is illustrative.
Think about the changes that Bing made. They incorporated social signals, they simplified their design, they partnered with Klout, they created their own confusing, unnecessary social network (so.cl) among other changes…. and their share of market barely deviated.
Now Bill Gates is deployed to Reddit proclaiming Bing’s superiority to Google (really, Bill?) and Microsoft extends their attack on Google to Gmail contrasting Gmail’s privacy to Bing-integrated Outlook.com. In each case illustrating features that have been around for months (in some cases years) or are possibly (in the case of Bing’s undeniable superiority) exaggerations or untruths.
The reality is that all of Bing’s changes didn’t take a lot of traffic from Google. Domestically they took some traffic from their “partner” Yahoo, but Google’s share of search is as strong as when Bing came on the scene. So, the question becomes whether to continue adding bells and whistles to the product or to try and boost awareness of what they’ve previously done.
LinkedIn is in the same boat. Maybe a gamification strategy makes some sense to drive traffic to some of the new content that they’ve put together, or the new layout, or their new “endorsements” feature. But it has very little do with its core competency of business connections and career transitioning. Maybe it would seem a little less gimmicky if the email didn’t remind you that each percentage point of 200 million users is 2 million users. But, LinkedIn (like Bing) has a lot of new-ish features that most people aren’t necessarily aware of.
Awareness / redundance that you don’t bat an eye at
Here in beautiful Cincinnati, Proctor and Gamble is home to some iconic brands: Crest, Scope, Pampers and my all-time favorite detergent, Tide. When you see advertising for these brands it’s a non-event. For a moment these familiar brands are top of mind until the next reminder. They don’t have to change formulations every three months, in fact it would be pretty reckless for them to do so. So, why are tech companies held to a different standard?
Does Bing need to reinvent the search engine every time they have a conversation about it? Does LinkedIn need to double down on Richard Branson blog posts for the privilege of asking for your attention? And if you were in the top 5% of Tide users (a metric determined by number of children x their propensity to get dirty x your motivation to take action), would it mean more to you than being a part of LinkedIn’s top 20 million users? For me it might, and I don’t know how to reconcile the double-standard.
What do you think? Are tech companies help to a different standard when it comes to marketing and advertising their products? And if you disagree with the premise of the piece, just leave a note to share how much you love Tide…