FAIL candidate: Bugaboo Friends
It sounds great, but to me Bugaboo Friends is a FAIL candidate.
Don't get me wrong, I really like Bugaboo
. From an overall marketing perspective, they're a phenomenon. Fantastic! And their products are fab. Top stuff! Heck, K and I bought one for the bimbi. And trust me, we saw every pram known to man (and woman) before choosing Bugaboo.
That said, I really hesitate when I see social networks created by product companies. They don't feel quite right, no matter how cool they are. Ask yourself, "Why Bugaboo?" I'm not sure of an answer. What gives Bugaboo the right to try to "own" or even get involved in this space.
Doesn't this feel more like a marketers wet dream than a social movement?
If you listen closely, you can hear it failing ...
Since I don't know if this was Bugaboo Marketing Director and European CMO of the year Madeleen Klaasen
's idea (and I can't blog with a Dutch accent) I'm going to make up a conversation. Here's how it might go:
Marketing person: We know people really love our products, so we should create a social network, like that Facebook thing. Only, we'll make it for parents. You know, so they can express themselves and their passions. And we'll inspire them to create content by showing them some professional videos (done by Robert Nakata, your agency's design director) that have a kind of un-produced yet produced feel. We'll create and promote a few key profiles. We'll encourage people to share their own adventures next to the incredible surfing, hiking and adventure families. And then, we can link to our other produced network content on Bugaboo Daytrips. We'll own it!
Agency client partner: That's a fantastic idea. You know, I really love that Zombie thing on Facebook! I'll call our "web development" partners, since I really have no idea what you just said and see if they can make any sense of it. Give me a day, and I'll have a proposal for the whole thing!
Digital agency (several hours later, speaking to agency client partner on the phone): You want what? In a day? Are you kidding? You're not kidding? The credit crunch? Oh, right. I'll get it to you by COP today, ok? (hangs up, speaking to a colleague) FCUK!!!!!! They did it AGAIN!!! They want it in a day! Ahhhh!
The fact is that for a number of reasons, start-ups and organic, non-branded communities will always have the edge in this space.
For example, I think Circle of Moms
has a far better chance of long-term success than Bugaboo Friends ever will.
With over 850,000 users, Circle of Moms is the fastest-growing community for moms on the Internet. Launched in October 2008, it enables moms to connect and address the challenges of motherhood together. Users can easily connect with the moms to whom they are closest and trust most (we call this group their circle of moms), like-minded moms or moms in their community. They can join one of over 1,000 public communities--including Toddler Moms, Recipe Swap, Money Saving Tips, communities by birth month for pregnant mothers and mothers of infants--or create a new community of their own. These are vibrant communities in which moms help one another by sharing past experience or empathy with other moms in the community. Moms can also use the "Moms Near Me" feature to find other moms that live nearby to keep up to date on the best restaurants, events and resouces for moms and their families in their local community.
It isn't over-produced. It isn't slick. It is real, and that's the way it feels. It is a natural place for moms (and mums) to hang out and share stories, photos, trials and tribulations with eachother.
Think about it: They've got 850K users, and they only launched 4 months ago. And, as far as I know, they're not doing any marketing besides word-of-mouth. (I could be wrong about that.) Just in the public-facing groups alone, there are hundreds of thousands of people active on the site: 62K members of the "Stay at Home Moms" group, 57K in "Working mums", 11K moms win a group for kids with "Autism/Asperger's/PDD Awareness", and so on.
How can Bugaboo ever compete with that? Contagious thinks Bugaboo Friends is "Most Contagious", and whilst most of the time I agree with their picks, on this one I really disagree.
Here's what they wrote:
Premium Dutch stroller brand Bugaboo has launched a social networking site called Bugaboo Friends. Designed by ad agency 72andsunny and web developers Perfect Fools in Amsterdam, the network doesn’t insist that parents own a Bugaboo to join, but inevitably features photos and footage of Bugaboo products to seduce those considering buying one.
Credit Bugaboo with not limiting it to Bugaboo owners, but I suspect that is as much to do with prospecting for new clients as it is about being inclusive. Oh, and there are a ton of bugs and the site crashes a lot. It constantly resets back to the region selector and often tries to play several videos at the same time. Perhaps this is only a Firefox thing, but I'd argue that Bugaboo parents are much more likely to be Firefox browser users than the norm.
Contagious mentions "Motrin Moms
" as evidence of the passion young parents have for new niche social networks, blogging and social media.
Fact is, if the "Motrin Moms" showed one thing, it was they won't put up with too much crap from marketers
who try to take advantage. Even in as innocent a case as Motrin, which was really just a bit of a prank/stunt ad
, many moms said "no" to a brand that tried to 'play' in their space.
If Madeleen Klaasen or someone from Bugaboo
or Perfect Fools
wants to weigh in, I'd love to hear (and publish) their point of view.
My guess is that Bugaboo Friends won't survive the year. And if it is still online, no one will be using it on a regular basis.
There's nothing as sad as an empty playground.