Set a higher standard of business: Don’t try to buy popularity

I saw something this evening that was disturbing. It is one of many ways of not being transparent online and risking your reputation and the trust of your current and future customers.

One of our local news outlets NewsOK has a contest called the Readers Choice awards. They are one of several in the area that have this sort of contest. It is a marketing tool for the news outlet, and it brings in great press to great businesses. Businesses that people already knew were good and that are able to stand on their own merits.

As I was catching up on my Twitter stream I saw that someone had voted for “Jeff Click Homes” in the NewsOK Annual 2010 Readers Choice awards. I was thinking “Great” as I moved my mouse over to click on the link in the tweet. As far as I know they are a great company that produces good looking homes. I’ve always been a fan of their work.  I clicked on the link that person posted after their vote and it took me to this page:

http://jeffclickhomes.com/story/our-2010-readers-choice-ipad-giveaway

Basically Jeff Click is having a giveaway for an iPad if you vote for them, tell everybody that you voted for them so then your friends can vote for them and also have a chance at winning an iPad?  This is also part of the FAQ for the contest:

Do I have to live in Oklahoma City to participate?
No, not at all.  However, each state has different laws regarding giveaways.  So, as they say, “Void where prohibited.”

In the middle of me reading up on this I was sent a DM or two about  other companies that are doing the same thing for this same contest. Customers and employees are being rewarded with prizes, casual days, food, etc. if they vote up for their company in the contest. What? You offer to give your employees food if they vote for you?

To any companies that participate in this practice: Please reconsider. If you believe you are good enough to win said contest then encourage your customers to vote for you based on your merits. Make sure they see the full slate of who they can vote for and let them vote their conscience. If you are truly worthy of winning you will have no problem getting votes and you can look yourself in the mirror in the morning without a problem. By offering a prize (like a very popular iPad) you are encouraging people to vote for an iPad,  not vote for you. People that don’t know who you are and don’t care will vote just to win this piece of lovely hardware.

To NewsOK: I was not able to find any rules about your contest online. If they are there then I am sorry. . If you don’t have any rules online about this then please get some. But only do it if you care about your reputation also. If you are not going to post any rules about this then when listing the winning consider adding the disclaimer that “winners may or may have not offered awards in exchange for obtaining votes”. I think that your rules should state that any company involved in this practice should be disqualified from winning. As of 1:03am Tuesday morning I know that you have at least two companies doing this. I would not be surprised if there are more.

In the grand scheme of things this is trivial. A lot of life is a popularity contest. But I would not have gone through this exercise if I didn’t think that the parties involved should not be held to high standard of business. That is why I care. Not for the iPad but for the standard.

Let’s set the bar high and keep it there.

6/20 Follow Up Disclosure: I have done marketing work with other Oklahoma builders in the past, and I will probably do so in the future.

6 Comments

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Patrick Allmond, Patrick Allmond. Patrick Allmond said: Don't try to buy popularity : http://allaboutfocus.com/2010/06/15/set-a-higher-standard-business/ […]

  2. Jim Adams 2010-06-15 at 10:13

    Hello Patrick,
    Nice to meet you. While I respect your opinion on the NewsOK Reader’s Choice Awards, my opinion is that your stance is much to serious for these awards.

    This contest is about the people’s choice, not seasoned veteran judges adhering to predetermined judging standards. And if people don’t know what to pick, an iPad incentive is marketing savvy. Marketing is about influencing perception and behavior. I think the iPad give away shows Jeff’s marketing savvy. By the way, Jeff didn’t pick some cheap hokey product to give away. He chose an iPad – probably because it fits his brand.

    Have you seen his homes? I can see myself with an iPad in the middle of a Jeff Click Home living room or kitchen.

    If I lived in OKC, it wouldn’t even be a question – I’d live in a Jeff Click Home. It fits my style.

    I voted for Jeff Click, not because I wanted the iPad, but because I spent a day with him, learned about how he does business, and saw how amazingly different and cool his homes are. I never felt like anyone was trying to buy my vote.

    In an economic climate that is pressed for disposable income, I applaud any business giving away products or services to consumers – for any reason.

    I think it’s great you’ve shared your perspective. I happen to share a perspective on the opposite side of the coin.

  3. patrick 2010-06-15 at 10:39

    Thanks for taking the time to respond. You and Jeff Click homebuilders are the first to respond and see no problem with this. Everybody else I’ve mentioned it to in public or private consider it shady.

    There are different types of marketing. If you are marketing your services as a home builder and you offer to give away a free iPad if someone signs a contract with you that is one thing. I have no problem seeing that as a legitimate marketing plan that produces good results. In that case an iPad is not going to adversely affect your $200000+ purchasing/actioning decision.

    But marketing in a popularity or “Best of” contest is different. Whoever wins this gets to say they are “The best 2010 homebuilder as picked by Oklahoma”. And that statement would be wrong. He will use that phrase on his website and in his marketing materials to influence buyers in the future. But I have a feeling those buyers will not ever find out that to gain that title the company in question offered prizes for votes. The better phrase would be “The homebuilder with the best and most popular prize offered for votes” . How is this any different that saying to any referee of a sporting contest “Psssst. If you help my team win I’ll make it worth your while” ?

    I tried to indicate how trivial/not serious it was by actually saying at the end of my post how trivial it was. And of course Jeff Click didn’t pick some hokey item. But if he did he might get a more honest sampling. How many people that don’t know his work are going to take the time to vote for him if his prize was a free oven mitt, or a $5 gift certificate to Amazon.com? Only the people that really know them and their work would take the time to vote.

    Repeating what I mentioned above – I have no problem with clever marketing. And I have no problem with the work of this homebuilder or anybody behind it. My only issue here in providing incentives in exchange for popularity.

  4. Jeff Click 2010-06-15 at 17:15

    Patrick, I was surprised to discover you’re not using trackbacks, so I figured I’d post a link to my response to your thoughts here:

    http://jeffclickhomes.com/story/ifallout

  5. patrick 2010-06-26 at 03:32

    For follow up and closure – if you visit the article on the other site mentioned you will find that transparency happens when convenient for marketing purposes. I am expected to be completely transparent (I’ve since added a disclaimer to my original story), while some people do it when it suit their business purpose. Comments on the other blog are closed, but they will continue to remain open here to facilitate any discussion on this issue. Feel free to add your comments below.

  6. patrick 2010-07-08 at 22:51

    This (the link below) is a great follow up to this post. Be careful about attempting to measure thing digitally that really cannot be measure or can only really be done organically. Pseudo contests and attempts to measure popularity and influence usually don’t accomplish their goals because they turn into popularity contest.

    Click on the following link, read the blog post carefully and read some the blog posts it links to carefully.

    And yes … I get caught up in the hype sometimes too.

    http://www.estebankolsky.com/2010/07/breaking-rant-fast-company-is-incredibly-stupid

Comments are closed.