How real world marketing influences online

As a marketing agency, we always appreciate clever marketing techniques and so when a man appeared at our front door with a case full of Lucozade Revive energy drinks for 'free' on the basis that we simply liked their Facebook page, we were both refreshed and straight onto Facebook to do our bit.

Taking it a step further, the bottles were fitted with unique codes to redeem on Facebook for a chance to win an iPad - of course you had to like the Facebook page first, but who wouldn't when they'd already got a free drink and now have a free chance of winning an iPad too?

If when you finished you were still thirsty you could even order another case for the office as well! So it was a win, win, win situation.

Now this is the sort of clever offline marketing we can get behind. We're always encouraging our clients to get involved with social networks in order to market their business, but there's no reason you can't use offline marketing techniques to help improve your online marketing as well. You might well already have fans of your brand offline who simply aren't following your online presence. I already like Lucozade in the real world, but hadn't thought of following them on Facebook, now I am.

Lucozade were also reaching out to my friends because by entering the competition, I'd have more chances to win if I shared it with friends. And everyone loves something for nothing, so even without the chance to win more I was already sharing the page with my friends and talking about the free bottles (thereby encouraging them to do the same).

Walking the fine line

This is a good example of clever online marketing. But it sparked an interesting debate in the office. If you've been following the news of late then you might have heard about the Interflora Google Ban. At around Valentines Day, Interflora had seen fit to send a load of flowers out to bloggers in return for a link to their site. This is seen by Google as paying for a link (an advertorial) and therefore against their Quality Guidelines. The fact that it was such an aggressive campaign (with over 150 bloggers and writers reached out to) quickly bought it to Google's attention and resulted in a swift penalisation of Interflora and seeing them being removed from the search results entirely.

Obviously this was a large and drastic blow to their marketing (and no doubt sales) at a time when they needed it the least. Whether they were correctly penalised is a subject for debate. Some might say it seems logical to encourage links by using your products to speak for themselves, but the other side of the argument is sending out free products is a form of payment and not every business can afford to do this - giving small business an unfair advantage. The requirement of the link back to the site is probably one of the factors that negatively impacted Interflora but also the aggressive nature of the campaign.

We considered in the office how similar the free Lucozade bottles were. The discussion went back and forth, but we talked about how you weren't required to give a link to Lucozade, merely a 'like' (though technically you didn't even have to do that!). We discussed how it was similar because it was still essentially free products to market the business but it wouldn't lead to them being banned from Google (though even if they were it would be unlikely to harm them anyway as they won't sell drinks that way directly), but in the end we agreed it was still a clever marketing ploy.

The moral of this story is simple really - you have to be very careful how you go about marketing your business. Follow best practices and don't try to get short term results with slightly risky ploys.

Search engine optimisation is a long-term marketing tactic, not a short term fix. It's not something that can be rushed with aggressive link building techniques or any other practices. You can try creating a buzz with clever marketing that might go 'viral' but paying for links is akin to burn £10 notes. It's pointless and may do more harm than good.