The Blogging Enterprise – Character Blogs

The general consensus from the conference seems to be that character blogs (fake blogs created by marketing departments that are supposedly written by the company’s mascot or other character) are, at least usually, lame. They are missing a key attribute of blogs: authenticity.

Some not-so-shining examples cited by today’s keynoters Steve Rubel and Shel Israel include:

  • Captain Morgan – Oh, come on. A blog from a 19th-century pirate? The biggest problem here, though, is not the basic concept, but the fact that the character just isn’t strong enough. With no hard liquor ads on TV and radio, they just haven’t been able to breathe enough life into the Captain to make him believable. Frankly, I think the whole ad campaign sucks.
  • Moosetopia, a blog about a moose traveling around the world, which supposedly relates somehow to Denali Flavors, a wholesaler of gourmet ice cream flavors. You know, their corporate blog is really good – exactly what a small business blog should be. But I just don’t get the moose thing either. Apparently some people do.
  • Delicious Destinations – Fictitious “T. Alexander” and occasional real-life guests share ideas about food, gift giving, entertaining and culture. Does it suck? No, certainly not nearly as badly as the above two do. But the fictitious character just doesn’t add anything.
  • The Lincoln Fry Blog – McDonald’s created an ill-fated ad campaign about two people discovering a french fry that looks like Abraham Lincoln. Actually, I found this one pretty amusing as satire. But effective marketing for McDonald’s? I don’t think so. If anything, it’s just a little too real, right up to the trackback spam from porn sites.

So are character blogs just completely lame? Steve Rubel thinks so, but Shel Israel is on the fence. He likes, for example, the Darth Vader blog, although it is (best guess) written by a fan, not a corporate marketing department.

My take on it, though, is that it’s not that there’s an inherent problem with character blogs, so much as that the examples above just aren’t based on a strong enough character to begin with.

What characters would I like to see blog?

  • Jack – maybe even a group blog from the antenna balls – “Jack in the Blog”? (Choice quote from Shel: “How do people at that company ever think outside the box?”)
  • Jiminy Glick could podcast behind-the-scenes stuff and outtakes.
  • Ali G – Frankly, it would be far more entertaining than one from Sacha Baron Cohen.
  • Dame Edna – Do you want to read a blog from Barry Humphries?
  • Harvey Birdman – Can you imagine his blawg?
  • Mickey Mouse – for kids – I wouldn’t read it (I’m not too sure about this one, but it’s a possibility)

Those would be purely for entertainment value, and I recognize that they (obviously) wouldn’t be “authentic”, but I think they could be done in a way that wouldn’t suck if there were a strong enough character as a foundation.

Apparently I’m not alone:

I’m of very like mind to Dave, who says in his article on fake blogs:

[T]he real reason that story blogs aren’t better and therefore more popular is because it’s just darn hard to produce material week after week as a fictitious character.

And in his critique of the Panasonic blog:

That’s the fundamental problem with the “Tosh Bilowski” weblog effort from Panasonic and its PR agency in my eyes, not that it’s “fake” or that they’ve pretty clearly created a fictional ‘video geek’ to write about their product line, but that it’s just boring and unengaging.

What’s your take?
– What about the examples above? Do they work for you or no?
– Are character blogs inherently lame, or is there any possibility of a good one?
– If so, what character(s) would you like to see blog?

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P.S. – It’s almost 3:00am here and I have a client on Thursday, my About.com weekly deadline Thursday night, and a meeting Friday morning, so it will be late Friday before I get the three or four other post-conference posts done that I’m planning.