Like many others, I loved how Vaseline took advantage of an opportunity yesterday to put their brand in context to something that is (or was) recently topical.

For a full story, here’s Anant Rangaswami’s well articulated observations in FirstPost.

While the print advertisement is a brilliant plug, what happened post that, ‘socially’, is worth a thought too.

I had tweeted about the print ad. too and was promptly followed by Vaseline Pakistan! Later that day, Vaseline India followed me.

That’s not the point though. The overall point to ponder is…are there certain brands and brand categories that are not appropriate enough for platforms like Facebook and Twitter?

Think about it from the engagement point of view. I, personally, have no interest in talking to my petroleum jelly. Or my chewing gum. Or my ear bud. That may be just me, but consider the kind of brands that you would be interested to have a conversation with, online.

Is it to do with the engagement/involvement levels in the product (or product category’s) purchase process? There are high involvement/high engagement products and categories – like tech. gadgets, automobiles, real estate…even movies. It is nothing to do with the cost of acquisition or the experience; it is perhaps more to so with the perceived value and the available options, I’d assume.

For example, personally, I’m not very particular about the brand of toothpaste I buy. I go by the pack that I stumble on the store shelf – the one that attracts me the most, coupled with a latent impression the brand may have made using advertising (in the past – that morning in the newspaper, the other day in TV, or earlier that week on a billboard etc.) is how I buy it. In a sense, that product is interchangeable as far as brands go, for me. It may change, if I had a medical need for a toothpaste and a particular brand has been recommended by my dentist.

I suppose frequency of purchase would also make a difference. Hippo is a good example – it is a frequently purchased and consumed product and even if I may not like the product’s taste, I really appreciate the fact that they talk not about themselves but about a consumer need (hunger) and tag along in a unique tone wherever hunger is being discussed. That’s taking mascot’ization to a new high and done very well, at that.

Does that mean we can have a germ-killer superhero for a toothpaste brand, a bad-breath killer for a chewing gum brand and even a dry skin vanquisher for Vaseline…talking to us in a unique lingo across Facebook and Twitter? Why not? Anything is possible – the key is how interestingly they are executed…enough to create an impression in these products’ end consumers to sustain the conversation.

With that as a background, it is disappointing to see Vaseline fritter away the massive attention they gained yesterday with banal tweets and updates on Facebook. One obvious spam’my tactic was to track whoever was talking about Vaseline and tweeting them a stock message – it may look very contextual to the person being addressed, but when that person clicks on Vaseline’s Twitter page, he’s bound to get disgusted since it looks like sharing all the mails in a mass BCC marketing blast email!

This is what I mean.

So, the question again – do you enjoy talking to your petroleum jelly? If not, what would make you do so? Chances are, an online brochure proclaiming product benefits (familiar ones, at that) in the form of Facebook updates and tweets may not be that reason.

For the record, I have written about this topic in a slightly different way, earlier – including a simple template to ascertain the different needs for high involvement and low involvement brands (brand categories). Here’s that template, again, for a quick reference – I’d perhaps make some changes in it given the new insights gained from the time this was created, but let me reserve it for a new blog post.