Last week, Grey Poupon, the upscale Dijon-mustard brand, launched a new Facebook campaign entitled “The Society of Good Taste.” This is the first-ever Facebook campaign to screen fans, as not just any individual can enter The Society. Facebook users must be granted membership by successfully completing an application process. Allegedly, The Society is composed of a cadre of culturally sophisticated, refined Facebook users (all of whom embody the Grey Poupon brand, of course).
Facebook is very egalitarian in nature, so is Grey Poupon’s campaign, which judges an individual’s tastes and tendencies, a smart marketing move? Can a brand instill an aspect of formality into an inherently informal site? Does the classy condiment’s campaign clash or coexist with Facebook?
Summing Up “The Society”
Grey Poupon describes The Society of Good Taste as “a discerning Facebook Society that rewards those who spread good taste.” Any Facebook user can like the Grey Poupon Facebook page, but to become a Societal member, one must go through an application process, which looks a little like this: a panel of fictional characters scrutinizes an individual’s Facebook profile, examining the photos he or she is tagged in, the pages he or she likes, number of Facebook friends, place of residence, education, and even whether or not that person uses proper grammar. (90% of my Facebook friends will be turned down based on this grammar criterion alone, because they continue to maintain that “they’re,” “there,” and “their” are interchangeable.)
The panel then either accepts or denies an individual’s application. From the reading I’ve done on the Facebook campaign, it seems that the application process isn’t quite as selective as it seems on first blush: if you’re rejected, all you have to do is apply a second time, and you’re guaranteed acceptance into The Society. Nevertheless, the whole procedure is imbued with a kind of pomp-and-circumstance feel. It’s all very country clubesque.
The Charm of Condescension
When I initially heard of Grey Poupon’s Facebook campaign, I thought it was a horrible idea. Social media is all about engaging fans and making it as easy for fans to interact with brands. What brand would willingly reject fans? How can a successful social-media-marketing campaign be founded upon exclusivity?
I decided to test out the posh mustard’s “Society” firsthand, and I found that despite my initial doubts, the Grey Poupon Facebook campaign is a fantastic social media marketing effort not in spite of its exclusivity, but rather because of its exclusivity. Here’s why:
Diverging from the Norm
The campaign can be summed up with this quote from author Gilbert K. Chesterton:
“I owe my success to having listened respectfully to the very best advice, and then going away and doing the exact opposite.”
Allow me to explain. One of the distinguishing features of Facebook is its accessibility: all you need to join the site is an email address. It consequently has an approachable feel to it. I think that a lot of brands try to imbue their Facebook pages with this same sense of approachability; conventional social-media-marketing wisdom purports that it’s important to make it easy for fans to engage and converse. Making them feel welcome is critical. Yet, rather than reaching out to fans as most brands do, the Grey Poupon Facebook page makes fans come to them. It turns traditional social media marketing on its head; traditionally, brands compete for consumers’ attention, but in the case of this upscale mustard, consumers must endear themselves in the eyes of the brand (and the fictional characters on that panel are tough critics).
Grey Poupon also deviates from the archetypal Facebook campaign in the fact that it doesn’t really concern itself with acquiring likes. Brands that overestimate the importance of Facebook likes and attempt to garner them through oftentimes trivial, empty means run rampant on Facebook. Case in point:
Crystal Light: light on calories, big on likes and desperation?
Likes sometime seem like cheap currency, because they’re so commonplace. And, nothing conflicts with Grey Poupon more than something that’s pedestrian, prosaic, and hackneyed (I say this partially in jest, though the commercial that launched Grey Poupon as a high-class mustard and made the condiment vulnerable to Wayne’s World mockery did feature a couple of Rolls-Royces.)
Who needs likes when you’ve got The Society, which is composed entirely of classy, highbrow, cultured Facebook users?
A Condiment with Comedy and Couth
The Society of Good Taste campaign reads like something out of an Oscar Wilde novel. It’s elitist, yes, but it’s not condescending or supercilious. It’s humorous and witty. Maybe it’s just me, but I perceived the application process to be all in good fun. To me, the stuffy formality, penchant for decorum, and polite, tactful rejection came across as very tongue-in-cheek.
When I read the comments on various articles about Grey Poupon’s Facebook campaign, I saw many people decrying and criticizing the marketing effort. I, too, initially dismissed it as imprudent and unwise.
But, as I soon realized, it’s all in jest. The page harkens back to Grey Poupon’s origins, which according to the mustard’s website, date back some 200 years, and the old-fashioned, aristocratic vibe is distinctively comical.
The launch of The Society appears to be successful. The New York Times wrote on Grey Poupon on September 11. At that time, the page had around 20,000 likes. As of September 17, the page has 33,107 likes. Though, whether or not these people are the luxury-car-driving, monocle-wearing, Dijon-mustard-using individuals whom Grey Poupon targets is up for debate.
A Trial Run
So, what happened when I tried to become a member of The Society of Good Taste? Four critics, dressed in what looked like Victorian garb, inspected my Facebook profile. They even commented on my profile, uttering humorous remarks in response to pages I’ve liked and photos I’ve been tagged in, such as this one in response to the fact that I like the Lady Gaga page:
Apparently, gentlemen of the upper crust look favorably upon Lady Gaga but frown upon red Solo cups. Duly noted.
Unfortunately, upon initial submission, my application was denied.
I didn’t peruse any rousing reads or dine on Steak au Poivre; however, I submitted my application again, and this time was graciously accepted into The Society. When my profile was examined a second time, I was applauded on my proper use of grammar, as I correctly used “it’s” instead of “its” in one of my statuses from October 2011. (According to the critics, it’s unbelievable how many people confuse the two, though I could have told them that.)
Apparently, I can’t rest on my laurels, though, as I have further “explorations into sophistication to perform.” And, I also must adhere to the Code of Conduct, which I signed with a quill that I thought charming in its vintage quality.
Now that I’m an official Society member, I’m eligible to claim offers, the first one of which was a reusable tote adorned with the phrase “Prosecco and Plastic.”
And it looks like Grey Poupon is firmly adhering to its 19th-century roots. When I claimed my offer, I was greeted with a message that informed me Grey Poupon has “long done away with carrier pigeons,” and that I would be receiving my offer by “traditional post” very soon.
I’ll be anticipating the arrival of my mailman and eagerly awaiting my offer, monocle and quill in hand.