The Federal Trade Commission has made an example out of Cole Haan’s Pinterest contest, and it’s serving as a warning to marketers and brands everywhere.
According to a letter written by the FTC to Cole Haan the contest rules were stated as follows:
Basically, promoting a brand you love through repins is okay. However, the FTC feels that promoting a brand in an effort to win a material reward is considered ‘deceiving’ to those who see the pins or boards without understanding they were incentivized. In the case of Cole Haan, using #WanderingSole was not explanation enough to communicate the $1000 at stake. (I would also like to point out that this contest clearly violates Pinterest’s contest rules by requiring a minimum number of pins from a specific board.)
It seems the lines of acceptable brand promotion are blurred once they cross into the social media realm. This issue is comparable to a celebrity endorsing a product on their personal Instagram without informing fans they’re actually paid to talk about it. So, why is it acceptable for a designer to give a celebrity a gown for free to wear on the red carpet with the expectation of them telling every reporter who they’re wearing?
Ultimately, Cole Haan’s contest, other secretly funded Instagram endorsements, and designer-clad celebrities, all want to have the same outcome for the brands behind them; increase reach, positive brand sentiment and sales. So shouldn’t they all have to play by the same rules set by the FTC?
Because social media is such a relatively new space for brands to express themselves, there will be a period where regulators aren’t quite there yet. It’s incredibly frustrating, but we must remember they’re only trying to protect the materialistic, thinking-impaired (a.k.a. those who would buy a product simply because a celebrity uses it).
What’s your take on regulating brands through social media? Let us know by tweeting @wayvs, or leave a comment below!