Burger King recently hit the headlines after winning the coveted Grand Prix award at Cannes Lions for its ‘Google Home for the Whopper’ campaign. The 15 second TV spot asked “OK, Google, what is the Whopper burger?” triggering Google Home devices within earshot to begin reading the Whopper Wikipedia page aloud in people’s homes.

It was a clever trick, but the Wikipedia entry for the Whopper was a prime target for sabotage, and was soon edited to described the Whopper as “the worst hamburger” that was made out of a “medium-sized child”. Despite this, the campaign generated plenty of free airtime and column inches for its daring “abuse of technology”.

Not all campaigns are quite as lucky.

Walkers’ #WalkersWave campaign, for example, backfired spectacularly at the hands of consumers. Twitter users were invited to tweet the brand with a photo that could be used in personalised video content published on the official Twitter feed. Rather than uploading honest selfies, however, the campaign was hijacked by consumers on social media who posted photos of notorious criminals and sex offenders.

The stark contrast in fortunes between these two campaigns highlights the great opportunities and potential risks of running campaigns that require audience participation. With consumer engagement becoming an increasingly important metric in marketing campaigns, what lessons can be learnt from the successes – and failures – of the Burger King and #WalkersWave campaigns?

Consider Your Brand’s Place In The Market

Before launching any interactive content, it’s important to assess your brand’s reputation and judge how the campaign will be received by your target audience. After all, there’s no point inviting consumers to interact with your campaign if there’s a possibility of animosity towards your brand. Consumer behavioural analysts generally agree that there was little damage to Walkers’ reputation in the wake of the #WalkersWave campaign, but if a less popular brand had run a similar campaign, it might have been a different story.

In Burger King’s case, the company decided to take a calculated risk with its Google Home for the Whopper campaign. Even though the advert used controversial means to broadcast its message, it’s unlikely that any consumers would have been so upset by this campaign that they’d never consider buying a Whopper burger again. In the end, the campaign actually ended up being a big success, generating a 300% increase in social conversation.

Troll-Proof Your Marketing Campaign

Ensuring you have a clear social media strategy in place is a vital step before launching any campaign. This means carefully monitoring social media communities and targeting the right audience with your message. By focusing on consumers who have already shown an interest or who have an affiliation with your brand, you reduce the risk of interaction from trolls and instead increase the chances of positive consumer engagement.

The recent #WeWontWait campaign by Parkinson’s UK is a good example of targeted social media marketing in action. The campaign carefully segmented audiences into three key groups: existing supporters, people who know someone affected by Parkinson’s, and new supporters. The campaign’s emotive content created lots of social media discussion and generated over 500,000 engagements.

Consider The Value To Your Audience

One key problem with the #WalkersWave campaign is that it failed to offer its audience any genuine benefits by taking part. As a result, some consumers may have felt they were simply being used by the brand to market its message. This negative sentiment may have spurred some consumers to sabotage the campaign.

On the other hand, if you offer your audience something in exchange for their time and attention, they are likely to respond more positively. The #WeWontWait campaign, launched for the Parkinson’s UK Awareness Week, also used personalised video but, unlike the #WalkersWave campaign, made sure that the audience targeted gained a valuable experience by participating in the campaign. For those who had been affected by Parkinson’s, the video was a powerful means of expression that allowed them to share their own story and explain what a cure would mean for them.

Use A Phased Approach When Rolling Out A New Campaign

Brands that prefer a more cautious approach might want to consider testing their campaign execution on a small audience at first. By layering a campaign in this way, brands can gauge consumer reaction and determine when to roll-out other elements of their campaign in a much more regulated and safer way. Not only will this help brands to avoid the kind of ridicule that Walkers experienced, but it can also be used to create a more engaging consumer journey.

When executed correctly, there are clear merits to creating campaigns that require consumer interaction. For a start, it can improve brand perception by giving the brand a more personable feel. As such, even though there may be risks involved, brands simply need to consider these pitfalls and how to address them, rather than avoiding them altogether.

Brands that can engage their customers in a way that rewards an interaction and which doesn’t offend its audience or take them for granted are far more likely to generate a positive public response – and maybe even win a Cannes Lions award.