Over the past week a study in how to lose the respect of your advocate base has slowly revealed itself in the form of a design competition being run by Moleskine, the notebook company. In the world of the Social Consumer in which we now all operate, advocates are far more powerful than Influencers. Influencers, are for the most part, incentivized to talk about a brand, product or service. Advocates on the other hand are so loyal to the brand, product or service that they will happily promote it for no reward other than seeing the success of their beloved brand.
Moleskine: Not Asking The Right Questions
What happened in this particular case? Moleskine decided to follow other brands and to hold a “social competition”. They partnered with DesignBoom who have held these competitions for other brands in the past. DesignBoom has worked with car brands like Infinity, Renault and electronics brands like Fujitsu among others. So Moleskine obviously felt that they were in good hands having DesignBloom run a design based competition for a logo for their blog.
The biggest difference between Moleskine and the other brands that DesignBloom has worked with is the competition entrants. For Renault or Infinity the designs were not being submitted by drivers, they were being submitted by designers, which is also true for Moleskine and that is the issue. The intended competition entrants for the Moleskine competition are designers, which makes them Moleskines customers, potential customers and advocates. The question Moleskine forgot to ask is what do our customers do with our product? You would think they would know as the site for which they were seeking a new logo is a place for users of their products to showcase their work. Moleskine’s product is central to their customers business, it is an essential tool that helps their customers generate revenue.
Moleskine: Asking For Free
The competition has caused an uproar in the design community because it is seen as an on-spec submission request – a request in fact for up to 3500 designers to submit their work for review and for one of them to be chosen as “the winner”. Many freelancers, when they are first starting out have to do work on-spec to capture their first client. However, those are usually small clients and are used to add to a growing portfolio. That a company the size of Moleskine would expect designers to submit work for free in the hopes of “winning” the competition is a remarkable misunderstanding of who their customers are.
All of this might have been rescued were it not for the response to the criticism that Moleskine made on their Facebook page:
As far as the Moleskinerie logo contest is concerned, we would like to clarify that since the nature of Moleskinerie has always been participative, made up of passionate contributions and voluntary submissions, we decided to let the community participate again in creating the new logo of the blog.
We decided to collaborate with Designboom to do so, a leading online design magazine, which is well aware of how to run a contest of this kind.
If you had spent some time on the “Competitions” area of Designboom website, you certainly have seen that other Brands are running and previously decided to run similar contests, with the same regulation of our with great participation as well as amazing results.
That said, being a contest, there’s a final price for the winner, but all the submissions are free, as well you are free not to taking part to it.
The tone, the arrogant and dismissive manner in which the criticism is addressed only added fuel to the fire. Designers, agencies and others are all leaving comments on the page stating that they will no longer be purchasing Moleskine products for their business – all of these comments are going unanswered.
Moleskine: Learn the Lesson
From the sidelines it is hard to see how Moleskine can recover from this particular PR nightmare. Their current tactic seems to be hide their head in the sand and hope it goes away. Asking their community to submit “free” work – which as any freelancer will tell you is the bane of their existence is such a monumental faux pas that it has revealed more about how little the company understands what happens to their product when it leaves them than I am sure they intended.
When you sell a business product it is incredibly important to understand how that product adds value to the end users business. Whether its a notebook or a computer, a piece of software or a vehicle. Knowing what your customer does with your product and how that action impacts their revenue gives you a much better insight into your customers needs and the ability to meet those needs.
Could Moleskine have achieved the same level of engagement without enraging their customer base? Yes, undoubtedly, most importantly they should have recognized the needs of their customers and folded those into the outreach that they were considering.
What advice would you give to Moleskine?
Thanks to anyone who has decided, and will decide to take part to it.