By Joe Pulizzi published March 23, 2012

Etch A Sketch Wins, Then Loses with Social Media

etch-a-sketch-286x230If you’ve been following the political scene over the past few days, it was a big win for Ohio Arts and their classic product, Etch A Sketch.

Eric Fehrnstrom, one of Mitt Romney’s senior advisors, talked to CNN’s “Starting Point” on Wednesday morning, stating that:

“Everything changes. It’s like Etch A Sketch,” he said. “You can shake it up and we start all over again.”

Etch a Sketch sales are booming from the comments, the stock price has doubled, and every major media outlet continues to talk about the historic product as Mitt Romney tries to clean up a PR mess.  Even Rick Santorum has been toting around the product at all his campaign stops as a reminder of Romney’s “start over” strategy.

So all good for Etch A Sketch, right?  Well, not so much.

Although Ohio Arts just recently sent a box of Etch A Sketch’s to the political candidates as thanks for the support (a great move), I feel they have lost out on a huge opportunity to build their online and social media assets.  Here are some thoughts:

  • Ohio Arts and Etch A Sketch have no Twitter account.  This is not uncommon for many consumer products, but this is a huge lost opportunity to pick up fans and followers on the social network.  Even this Chicago Tribune article states, “Ohio Arts, alas, does not have a Twitter Handle.” It would not be unlikely for Etch a Sketch to pick up tens, possibly hundreds of thousands of followers over the past few days from the publicity. This was an amazing opportunity to build out a media channel…but alas…
  • Where’s the Story? I couldn’t find any article or post from the company directly about the happenings, except for a small formal statement on their Facebook page.  Just imagine the news that could have been told from a series of original blog posts?  Possibly samples of the candidates as an Etch a Sketch in multiple posts.  How many would have shared these posts, sending thousands of inbound links to the site, leaving the opportunity to make more connections with fans and followers?  Done right, Etch A Sketch could continue this story for months after all the buzz is gone.
  • Where’s the News? First off, I couldn’t access the Flash only Etch a Sketch site on my iPad, so off to the PC.  After searching through the site for about five minutes, I finally found the press room at the bottom of the Ohio Arts page. I was expecting, at minimum, a news release and links to coverage about the events of the past few days.  Well, no such luck.  The last news release was from March of 2011 (3 of them), then before that you had to go back to 2008.
  • Where’s the Database? Exposure such as this could have created the opportunity to get a number of direct connections through email updates on the product to fans.  Unfortunately, I couldn’t find one. Don’t Etch A Sketch fans want regular updates on great stories from the company?

Look, I love Etch a Sketch and I don’t want to be harsh to this great company in any way, but this is a standard case of a company thinking and acting very traditionally and not seeing the great opportunity to build connections directly with fans, journalists and bloggers through multiple media channels.  If the company was thinking more like a media company, it would be realistic to assume that this awesome event could have translated into long-term asset creation (channel development and inbound links), instead of just a short-term sales spike.

Author: Joe Pulizzi

Joe Pulizzi considers himself the poster boy for content marketing. Founder of the Content Marketing Institute , Joe evangelizes content marketing around the world through keynotes, articles, tweets and his books, including best-selling Epic Content Marketing (McGraw-Hill) and the new book, Content Inc. Check out Joe's two podcasts. If you want to get on his good side, send him something orange. For more on Joe, check out his personal site or follow him on Twitter @JoePulizzi.

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  • Dom Celentano

    Hi Joe, My Digital Marketing class will get this as an assignment to illustrate the importance of stregy first and then using social and digital tools.

    • Joe Pulizzi

      Wow Dom. Great news.

  • kathikruse

    I’ve heard Etch-a-Sketch referred to as the “Kentucky Laptop”. Great post Joe, you are an icon to me, truly 🙂

    • Joe Pulizzi

      Too kind Kathi. Thx so much.

  • Jeff Ogden

    Good point on a lost opportunity. Just think how capitalizing on the news – press release, social media outreach and a great story could have launched a huge revenue opportunity for them. Good business lessons on a lost opportunity here, Joe.

    Jeff Ogden, President
    Find New Customers
    Host of Mad Marketing TV 

  • Tom Bishop

    I would disagree – obviously Ohio Arts is missing out on a big Content Marketing opportunity, but a lot of old-school companies do just fine without up-to-date strategies. Clearly their products are found in any toy store, and they’re busy within their trade orgs, events and mags, and they have a solid traditional PR pedigree. Just because they don’t do things ‘our way’ yet, or that they definitely could,  doesn’t mean they absolutely need to.

    • Joe Pulizzi

      Hi Tom…you are certainly entitled to your opinion.  In this case, Ohio Arts had the opportunity to build up their OWN channels instead of always having to work through a mediator (as you point out, they are very good at doing). 

      I can only imagine the follow up case studies and buzz they would get from bloggers around the world if they could have done things just a little bit differently.  What if they would have been prepared for this from a social media perspective?

      You are correct, they certainly don’t need to do any of this…P&G doesn’t need to be on social media, do they?  Maybe they do.  

      I remember years ago talking to an agency that said that companies like Kraft and P&G didn’t need their own customer email lists.  Today, both companies are working tirelessly to build those same lists.

  • Kenneth Roberts

    Follow the money … they have plenty of 
    Political Donations to Republicans. While they’ll take the business and the stock jump, probably don’t want to actively rock the boat too much.

  • Nick Stamoulis

    This publicity came rather quickly.  Most likely, they just didn’t have the resources to really capitalize on it, which is unfortunate for them.  This is a great example of why it’s important to make the most of every possible online marketing opportunity that comes your way.  

  • snaphop

    Great perspective. Working on a blog post on coming to your own party… and how Ohio Arts was late to theirs! 🙂

  • Angela Morsa

    This will make a great case study in colleges for how not to market…