NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- In the middle of the marketing frenzy around mommy bloggers, Sony Electronics has turned its attention to the other gender, launching DigiDads, a program all about putting its products into a small group of blogging dads in hopes that they'll play with them and write about them.
The dads are not getting paid for using the consumer-electronics giant's products and will have to return them when they're done. Oh, and it's not quite as simple as giving them a product to review, and asking them to write about it, according to Marcy Cohen, senior manager of communications at Sony Electronics, and Chris Brogan, president of New Marketing Labs. Unlike with journalists, who often receive products on loan from Sony to review, Sony will put together projects for the blogging dads that they can use the gadgets on.
"Anybody can do blogger outreach," said Mr. Brogan. "We're aiming for telling a story vs. 'Here's some stuff, write about it.'" The projects will include "Summer of 100 Faces," where the dads and their kids will use Sony cameras to take 100 portraits. Other plans include using a GPS-equipped video camera to map out historical video tours of a neighborhood or record a tour on a vacation.
Ms. Cohen tapped Mr. Brogan -- who is getting paid as a consultant on the project, not unlike a PR firm would on traditional outreach -- after meeting him at the Consumer Electronics Show where he interviewed her for his Power 150-ranked blog. Ms. Cohen said Sony has done programs for mommy bloggers, flying them out to San Diego to show them how to use the company's products, but it has never done one with a focus on dads.
Mr. Brogan is a firm believer in the viability of what has become a sensitive issue for some in the internet space: sponsored conversations in blogging. He came under fire from some social-media purists late last year when he ran on his blog a campaign for Kmart, brokered through sponsored-conversation firm Izea, on whose board he sits. He believes it was executed well but said going forward he is extra careful about "making sure people understand the intention behind it."
In this case, the bloggers get nothing other than the products for a few months and some good exposure (many of them are in the marketing or consulting field themselves). Ms. Cohen has charged them with writing honest reviews and "fully expects the good and the bad. We want to be open, honest and transparent about the relationship." In that way, she said, "we're treating them like journalists."
One subject of debate was whether to buy affiliate advertising on the blogs, so if readers liked the products they could purchase it right from the sites. The decision was not to do so, for fear of appearing too heavy-handed.
The bloggers include Michael Sheehan of HighTechDad.com; Max Kalehoff of AttentionMax.com; Brad Powel, one of the dads behind DadLabs.com; C.C.Chapman, whose blogs include DigitalDads.com and CC-Chapman.com; and Jeffrey Sass, who contributes to DadoMatic.com, a blog Mr. Brogan founded.
Sony will be evaluating the campaign based on the exposure it gets, including via Twitter, and in comments and links to the blogs.
One of Sony's biggest goals when it comes to social media, said Ms. Cohen, is "to engage customers in conversation and share the insights we gain from that with engineers, product developers and designers."
The program was announced today and already Mr. Brogan's blog had almost 20 comments. "The feedback is going to be invaluable," she said. "It's an easy way to speak frankly and directly."
Added Mr. Brogan: "I think CE organizations have kind of forgotten the 'C' part of things. They're doing rigorous market analysis but not asking customers what they want or, better yet, listening to data that's provided every day for free on Twitter, Facebook and everywhere else."