What marketers can learn from Cookie Monster's AMA on Reddit
Updated: Feb 8, 2019
Reddit is a dangerous place for brands to spend time. It is a community with a perfect memory, penchant for investigative (citizen) journalism, and generally unforgivable attitude. It is incredibly influential, with a huge upside. But the upside is balanced by a huge downside that drags brands through the mud, even when they are well intended.
And Cookie Monster just did it exactly the right way.
There are three ways that brands try to play - they try to "infiltrate", advertise, or collaborate (typically through AMAs).
Infiltrating is where the biggest danger is - either creating dummy accounts that post news, defend brands in comment threads. At one of the agencies that I worked for in the past, we had audience development sharpshooters who would post content that we created for clients to certain subreddits and often had that content float to the front page. It didn't happen often, and for the most part, we dodged a lot of bullets.
Advertising is less dangerous, but the upside isn't nearly as large. Ads on Reddit need to be more self-aware, but somehow authentic to the community. (BedJet actually did a fairly interesting one where they posted a revised ad after being SLAUGHTERED in the comments in their first one.) Generally Reddit users (who don't use adblock) seem to see these ads as a necessary evil.
Collaborating is the model that takes the most work, requires the most brand buy-in, forces the most transparency, but has huge potential for positive impact. Typically this comes in the form of an "Ask Me Anything" on the popular r/AMA subreddit. They are successful when the participant answers a high volume of questions honestly and authentically.
And, as strange as it sounds, that is exactly what Cookie Monster did.
If you haven't seen it, you should. Some highlights below, excerpted from the 5,000+ comments on the AMA.
But it's brilliant because it is real, authentic, very well done - but it allows the brand to inject its intended message throughout the AMA, something that, with REAL people, will get shot down by the community. But with Cookie Monster, since he is, after all, just a muppet, he has liberty to promote his own cause as much as he wants.
In this case, that cause is the Yellow Feather Fund, which "helps bring education to children in need." Run through Omaze, the goal was to encourage people to donate for a chance to come and eat cookies with Cookie Monster on Sesame Street. Which is an amazing experience, but in order to get people to participate you need awareness. And the AMA was the perfect platform for it.
Which all brings me to the "what we can learn." There are three things to apply.
Be authentic. I know I talk about this a lot, but the AMA remained true to Cookie Monster's voice, attitude, and general outlook on life. That is why it worked. It wasn't a façade, it wasn't child's play, it was really Cookie Monster. (Well, not really, because he is just a muppet, but it was really his character.)
Find where your message fits. Your audience will turn off if they feel like they are being too heavily marketed to, but also need to know why you are saying/doing what you are. This is a very fine line that the folks at Sesame Street found a clever way to balance. In many cases, you will need a sequential marketing approach where you follow up with the more-direct sales message, leading with an engaging story with emotional resonance.
Speak to your consumers individually. In the AMA, Cookie Monster had some answers that were clearly guided by a messaging document, but with each, they were highly individualized. In one instance, the commenter asked a question, and mentioned his son. Cookie Monster answered the question (something about always sharing your cookies), and then followed up with a separate comment saying hello to the commenter's son. It seems small, but it means everything. It is what takes people from customers to advocates. And advocacy is the holy grail of marketing.
As promised, here are some excerpted portions of that AMA. All credit to the thread on Reddit and the community there.
Q (from sleepydud): How big is your cookie collection?
A (from Cookie Monster): Not very big. Me constantly run into problem of eating me collection!
Q (SpuneDagr): My 7-year-old daughter is about to start selling cookies for Girl Scouts. Do you have any advice for her?
A: Don't eat the product!
Q (rotch29): My son is your biggest fan in the world. His name is Nico and he's almost 2. Any words of advice for him???
A: Me think it important to always share your cookies. Me know it hard to do sometimes, but it da kind thing to do.
A: Oh, and HI NICO! Me love you!
Q (TigersFanMatt): Mr Cookie Monster, is a Jaffa Cake actually a cake or is it secretly a cookie in disguise?
A: This the age old cookie question. Me hear to settle it. It a cookie!
Q (anchordown16): Which Muppet or resident of Sesame Street has the best cookie recipe?
A: What a muppet? As far as cookie recipe me love cookies from Alan at Hooper's Store or me Mommy's recipe!
Q (pychojoe99): What do you think of internet cookies?
A: There cookies in internet? How me get to them!? Me hope they not get deleted...
Q (nard-el): Can you tell me how to get to sesame street?
A: Me thinks your best bet is to enter dis thing and win. Me fly you here and everything! Me even cashed in all me miles.
And much more. Check it out, it's worth a read. :)