Before we begin, I’d like you to click here.
The above link goes to a popular thread on our Facebook feed. No doubt we egged the conversation on with the picture, but clearly, a nerve was struck with our small but well-educated Facebook followers.
Right off the bat, I need to throw down a couple of disclaimers:
First, we are a partner of Bodybuilding.com’s (you’ll see them listed all over PricePlow). But sometimes, the beast needs a little kick in the pants.
As partners, we like to promote new, exciting, and generally awesome stuff.
Second, we do many of the exact same things called into question here. There is a banner ad on this very blog post, is there not? So, pot, meet kettle.
As industry followers and news junkies, we’re not alone in saying that we absolutely love awards and the competition that come with them. And there’s no bigger industry award than those given by Bodybuilding.com on the Mr. Olympia stage.
Yet every year, users have become increasingly disappointed by the nominees presented, as our Facebook thread and a few other forum posts indicate.
But rather than just complain, we wanted to stir up some conversation by presenting some ideas that could help make next year’s a better scenario. After you read this, feel free to add some ideas of your own.
How to Fix the Bodybuilding.com Supplement Awards
Here’s what we think Bodybuilding.com should do:
Realize that not everything needs to be a short-term cash play
As we all know, Bodybuilding.com is a revenue machine. It’s estimated that they pulled in nearly half a billion dollars in 2014.
What everyone doesn’t know is that they are now 90% owned by the Liberty Ventures Corporation, the same company that fully owns QVC.
At some point, things start to feel a bit too corporate, and that includes grabbing cash this quarter at the expense of your long-term branding / street cred. Not an uncommon thing to happen — it just sucks when it happens in your neighborhood.
Brands pay to get the most visibility (ie newsletter blasts, featured products in categories and on competing product pages, featured content, etc.)
Note that this is the part that every store/site does, if given the power. The banner ad above this blog post wasn’t free, mind you!
These brands typically find themselves on the Top 50 list and various other popular top-selling lists on the site. Being such high-trafficked pages, this success then propagates itself into more sales.
That’s all fine (and even expected)… until:
- Bodybuilding.com announces that the best-selling brands will be the nominees, “as chosen by the users”. This of course includes the house brands.
It’s truly a brilliant system, if you have the traffic to make it happen (which they obviously do). The business is literally getting paid to get paid (hence the brilliance) — no sour grapes here.
Note that there’s nothing new going on here — this setup also takes place in every single business niche on the planet.
And it works incredibly well — until it just doesn’t. Because sooner or later, the system jumps the shark, and it feels like 2015 may have been that year.
The problem is that you’re eventually left with just a handful of brands:
- Store-owned brands
- “Sweetheart” brands
- Massive brands that have huge ad spend
Of course, the problem is that if a company has the kind of money to “pay to play” on a half-billion dollar site, then there’s a chance that the product is overpriced or the formula is underdosed – and that’s ultimately bad for the paying consumer – the real customers here!
It will always be my contention that most consumers aren’t idiots, despite how some brands and stores market to them. We’re cool with some shilling. We know those newsletter blasts are expensive. But we also know when they’re being shilled too hard in the name of a quick buck…
Thinking longer-term can do you better!
The irony is this: had BB.com not chased every last quick buck, they would have gotten more traffic, more sales, and more revenue anyway!
But it needs to be planned properly – which brings us to the next four ideas:
Stop relying on review scores
…at least until the reviews are cleaned up.
It’s no secret that the reviews on every site, from Amazon to WalMart and back, are gamed. It’s proven to be no different here.[5,6]
There are solutions to this problem, but they require technical and social engineering. SupplementReviews has worked hard to try to solve this problem,[7,8] and seem to be making serious headway.
But until those problems are solved, reviews simply shouldn’t bear any weight. End of story.
Get more brands involved, including some underdogs
This is the true crux of the problem, and it’s easily solved. Simply add more brands! There should be at least 30, maybe 40 worthy brands spread across the 20 awards.
Now, the rub is that in order to get listed, the brand needs to share multiple posts on social media and boost/advertise them, linking to BB.com. For instance:
Brand X has a great, open-formula 1-scoop pre workout. They must share posts telling their users to go vote for said pre workout.
In order to get listed in the awards, they must agree to post three times on Instagram, twice on Facebook with boosted posts, and on Twitter using Twitter ads ($10-20/day budget will do).
- Brand Y has a best-selling BCAA that should be included. Same deal, except tell them to promote votes for the BCAA.
- Brand Z has a fantastic tasting protein. You get the picture.
You also tell them to have all of their reps, sponsored athletes, and models to share as well.
At this point, guess what you have: 40 highly-incentivized brands (and their reps) FLOODING social media with your promotion. It’d literally be a hurricane of traffic, and the eventual sales made (see my next idea) would trump any paid advertising in the first place.
This traffic tornado is really something that only Bodybuilding.com could make happen, yet I’m not sure why they don’t. It doesn’t need to be this exact idea… you can dream up (and add in the comments) other creative ways to get everyone involved for some fun, money-making, and ultimately dramatic competition going.
Of course, they can list their “preferred” brands first. The new risk is that these brands stand to lose, and they paid a lot of money not to… but sometimes doing the right thing just makes more sense. And if you can’t beat an underdog, did you deserve it anyway?
The other risk is that you could venture into uncharted territory, as we saw in 2012 (hint: it begins with “meth” and ends with “amphetamine”), so the site still has to be extremely cautious with who gets a nomination.
Understand (or at least define in your words) what the words “innovative” and “breakout” mean
Of the “innovative” brands nominated, there was only one brand regularly putting out products with new and interesting ingredients (this is how I’d define the word innovative), and maybe two that actually endorse open formulas.
Innovation: something new or different introduced.
Pretty simple stuff, yet despite that definition, I’m still not sure I feel comfortable calling a color-changing label that innovative.
As for the breakout brands, you know exactly who was missing there. The question is why?
Use better technology
There are tons of fun things you can do with a touch of technology that would both boost revenue (short-term and long-term) as well as make for a better process.
Here are some freebies:
- Incentivize users to log in. Those who do have their votes bear more weight.
Now you can…
- Look at the purchasing history of those users. If they voted for a product and they’ve already purchased said product, that vote should bear a lot more weight.
- Same goes for the brand-based voting. Actual customers of that brand have a stronger say so.
- Likewise, if they purchased a certain product, yet voted against it in a category, that has significance too.
The three items above might sound difficult, but the data is all there in the database. You just need a coder to script it up after the voting is done – it’d seriously be an afternoon’s worth of querying/coding.
This can then potentially boost sales in the notoriously slow month of July!
Taking the above idea even further, you give the brands a month’s advance warning that they will get nominated. Now they can get their biggest fans to buy stuff ASAP (for more powerful votes), funneling more traffic into BB.com for the month (PricePlow tech can and does do this when brands need help with it).
Now guess what – you have a ton of new users (thanks in part to the social media ideas in #3 up above), and you also know what brands/products they’re interested in!!
You can now hit them with targeted marketing when those products go on sale! That’s a spam that I’m willing to get – and it’s a long-term play!
When the user hovers over a product, have a popup window that provides a link to the product page. This way, we can look at the ingredients and add it to the cart.
Easy instant sales and more traffic to the store. I have no clue why this wasn’t done.
With all these put together, the store is now getting paid to get paid to get paid! You can’t beat this!
There are plenty of other ideas. This seriously isn’t rocket science. You find out what people actually want and you sell it to them!
Bring back awesome
And after all this, you now have a promotion that ethical-minded affiliates such as ourselves are willing to promote and link to – without losing credibility.
I have no problem with you making a billion dollars — seriously — just don’t expect me (or any other leading-edge user) to get excited over what was delivered this year.
After all, we want to vote for who has the best products… not the biggest marketing budget.
Have more ideas? Add them to the comments!
- Incentivize users to log in. Those who do have their votes bear more weight.