We've heard the story before: Brand wants to inspire user generated content. Brand inspires user generated content. Brand hires lawyers, and shuts down user generated content.
Think, record labels and Napster users. Think, Mattel and Scrabulous. Think, AP and today's lawsuit against Shephard Fairey (that just broke today). Now, add Mars and Poke to my running list of counter-cultural branding moments.
The latest tone-deaf brand to fall into this trap is Snickers. According to ad blog AgencySpy, the digital shop Poke randomly built Snckrz!, a nifty little Website where users could customize any phrase into a Snickers logo. Eighty-thousand users later and at zero cost to Mars (Snickers' parent company)—Poke wasn't even their agency—Mars sends a cease and desist letter to the shop, demanding it kill the site! Snckrz! will be eviscerated by 6 p.m. this evening.
I just don't get it. Marketers spend millions of dollars on market research, focus groups, ad agencies, digital shops, so on and so on, just so their brand can catch fire with the cultural zeitgeist. It almost never works (check out Snickers' latest lame "snacklish" campaign). Yet, when it actually does, usually by accident, control-freak corporations don't know what to do other than bring out the litigious arsenal. When are they ever going to learn?