Enjoy it while you can Bunz. The marketers are coming and they are going to scorch the Earth where Bunz Trading Zone once stood so that nothing can ever grow there again.
Okay, that’s a bit dramatic, but where there are people, brands will always follow. Roads were just roads before billboards popped up and similarly, every form of digital traffic ends up getting turned into a hotbed for brand promotion and direct advertising. While a couple of billboards won’t discourage you from getting between point A and point B, digital ads have been running people off the roads of one digital platform after another.
I remember signing up for Facebook early on. Being excited to “poke” girls that we liked and share photos that made us look cooler than we actually were, but most of all, just being excited to see each other online.
In the “Social Network” movie, Jesse Eisenberg says something along the lines of Facebook only being cool because there were no ads. The real Mark Zuckerberg makes a good couple of bucks off of Facebook ads nowadays and if I scrolled down my news feed right now I guarantee I’ll find a lot more branded content than pictures of my friends.
At the end of the day, these sites and communities are a business and you can’t really blame the owners for monetizing them, but boy can it get out of hand.
As soon as you open the doors to marketers, all bets are pretty much off. Give us an inch and we’ll take a mile. We are internet sociopaths, blissfully unaware of the fact that we’re ruining people’s experiences in pursuit of good marketing metrics. Most of the time, people aren’t on these websites looking to buy what we’re selling. They’re there for some kind of information or a social experience.
Unfortunately, we marketers can get carried away, especially once competitors start popping up in the same place we’re trying to advertise. We’ll keep pumping ads out until the site or social network is too polluted for anyone to inhabit at all. That’s the life cycle of a social site.
There are ways to avoid that. Inbound marketing preaches a consumer-centric approach that discourages interrupting the experience of a user. In short, if somebody came to Bunz for Bunz, don’t try to distract them from Bunz, because you’re just ruining Bunz and putting the blame on your brand. Makes sense.
Bunz has been growing steadily with more and more people are getting excited about the weird knickknacks and services being offered in exchange for bus tokens and alcohol (usually). BUNZMOTHERCORP™ even recently announced the launch of official real-life trading zones at several partnered cafe locations across Toronto.
The marketer in me says “perfect” as he rubs his greedy mitts together. A physical location just wreaks of potential sponsorship activation. Or I could promote a product by putting fake listings on a fake account. But what’s going to happen when every second post on Bunz is for “Delicious, crispy, flavourful Lays™ potato chips” ISO: “anything that can match the value of the best potato chip in Canada three years running based on the Chippy Awards.” Sounds a little forced and suddenly all the fun is gone.
I admire the folks behind Bunz for creating something so practical. They started with a great idea, saw an opportunity and built on it. At the end of the day though, those people are going to have to eat too. Sooner or later somebody is going to turn this whole barter system idea into something profitable so it may as well be them.
So will Bunz be able to make a couple of bucks off of this platform without having to sell out to opportunistic marketers? Can they do it in a way that doesn’t spoil the genuine experience that they’ve created? With the TTC set to remove tokens (a major currency on BTZ), what will fill that void? Bunz bucks?