Some days I don't know whether to laugh or cry. I was just running through my feeds at lunch and I came across this post from Shel Israel. It seems that Mattel and Hasbro have issued a take down order on the popular Facebook application Scrabulous due to trademark infringment. As of this post there are 600,563 active users of the application.
Clearly this is a trademark violation, but just look at the reach that this single application is having. There has to be a balance between legal and marketing in order to thrive in new media. Personally, I never really thought about Scrabble until I saw the flood of invites and blog posts and messages on Twitter about this little applicaiton. Personally I don't own the real world game, but I know people who did buy it after this Facebook app reinvigorated their passion for it.
If I were in Mattel's marketing department here is what my train of thinking would be here:
- Somebody please kick the legal department out of the room. Thanks, now let's continue.
- Wow! These guys built an awesome application around our brand
- We NEED to talk to them and buy this application ASAP
- We NEED to hire these guys (or at least retain them) to do updates and possibly roll this out to other networks (Bebo, MySpace, etc.)
- Seriously guys, keep those lawyers out of here! Just tell them somebody in accounting is using the wrong Pantone color in the logo again.
- If we can't buy it, we at least need to sponsor/co-present it as *the* official Scrabble game on Facebook
- If none of those options work we need to congratulate those guys publicly for their efforts and encourage people to join in
- I wonder why we didn't think of this.
I think way too much marketing decision making is done by zealous, old-school, out-of-touch marketers or the legal department. I've personally run into legal departments that have the marketing group so fearful that the lawyers start making branding/positioning decisions for the company. That's a very scary idea in my mind.
Any marketer out there should be looking at all of the options inside social networks like this. Look at these four actions steps to get the most value:
- Creation: build the application, group, etc. that fits your business goals and adds value to your customers.
- Acquisition: If you're late to the party you should look at what is out there and set some acquisition targets. Look for those people adding the most value even if they don't have the most traction.
- Collaboration: If you can't/won't build it and somebody else has, look for ways to collaborate with them. Support them in ways that bring value to the users.
Have you seen any other examples of marketers making snap judgements and persecuting their biggest fans? Social media is about supporting evangelists, not crushing them in a public display of force.