So I’m in Cincinnati right now at P&G’s self-described "Digital Hack Night" where the goal is twofold: to get their brand managers to understand a bit more about digital marketing strategies and to raise money for their "Loads of Hope" charity which is tied to Tide. For the next 2 hours, nearly 100 people–P&G brand managers, bloggers, Twitterers, authors and agency folks–are trying to use every social network–Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, YouTube–we have at our disposal with the ultimate objective of getting as many Loads of Hope tshirts sold on their eCommerce site as possible. We have a big leaderboard screen, QVC-style, that shows exactly how many unique visits we’ve received, what our conversion rate is and how many t-shirts we’ve sold (5,000+, 6% and 1,000+ by the way, respectively, at the moment).  What a great way to get non-believers in the channel to see quickly, in real time, how rapidly an idea can radiate through a network and drive sales. And they did that by allowing influencers of small and large networks to go do what they do best, with the brand that is a crown jewel of the company.  Given that the biggest objection to companies engaging social networks is "What if the message is turned against us?", P&G gets extra kudos for creating a live lab that showcases the power of viral marketing with the full understanding that there are risks but that the digital channel has characteristics like speed and reach which are unmatched in other channels.  If only every company were so fearless!
Btw, if you want to buy a t-shirt to help the cause, do it by 11am ET on March 12.