Gatorade – a giant leap for social media monitoring, or just the new, enhanced, Big Brother?

All big brands, and most smaller ones, are now paying at least lip service to the idea of social media monitoring – at its most basic level, keeping an eye on what people are saying about them on the likes of Facebook or Twitter, in case there is negative stuff out there they need to be aware of. This is now just as important for some as what is being said in the traditional ‘old media’.

The people behind the American sports drink Gatorade, part of PepsiCo, have taken this one giant step further. In the middle of the marketing department of their Chicago HQ, they have set up a geeks’ paradise – what they call their social media ‘Mission Control Center’, with giant screens monitoring all sorts of simultaneous social media chatter, and some heavy-duty analytics software. They are so proud of it they’ve put up a promotional video on YouTube – well worth a look:

All very clever and market-leading, but there is a fine line between making your customers feel you care about their views, and making them fear you can’t have a private chat to your mates without you listening in, like the headmaster putting his ear to the classroom door at playtime. Make a bad comment about our brand, it seems to threaten, and we’ll be on to it in a flash – “we know where you live” as it were (and they probably do).

The captions to the video – against a portentous, heavy rock soundtrack – give you the idea: “Whenever people are talking, clicking, typing about our brand, Mission Control is there to listen. To create a dialogue, track analytics of campaigns, track analytics of websites and social media, monitor online discussions – ” (and so on). Whoever thought of Big Brother swigging a sports drink?

Big corporations have to be aware of what their customers are saying about them, and are rightly castigated when they ignore social media or use them poorly (Eurostar during the December snow fiasco comes to mind). But I think something a bit less in-your-face is perhaps more appropriate.

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