Tag: Branding

A few weeks ago, the privacy controversy surrounding Facebook prompted us to ask whether the brand’s threshold for widespread criticism was disproportionately high simply because of its global ubiquity. In other words, could the brand commit what would usually be fatal errors and still feel no ill effects on its reputation among consumers?

Well, Apple has us asking the same question today, albeit in a different context. Following the long-awaited release of the iPhone 4 yesterday, a swell of media coverage and user reviews picked apart the newest features and functionality. Though generally very well-received, one complaint emerged as particularly troubling: service failures that reportedly occur when users grip the phone with their left hand. The reason for the quirk was immediately revealed to be the new antenna structure, in which both the Bluetooth-WiFi-GPS antenna and the GSM-UMTS antenna are wrapped around the external edges of the phone.

Turns out, this structure has one major flaw: lefties cradle the phone in such a way that interferes with how both antennas come together in the bottom left corner, thus resulting in the service dips and dropped calls.

That’s bad in its own right, but what raised questions for us was the company’s utter dismissal of the issue, first in an email from CEO Steve Jobs to a customer (see image below, courtesy of Engadget), and then in an official statement.

The basic gist of both responses: Stop holding it wrong.

The long-held belief that the customer is always right has been observed with near-religious fervor since social media’s emergence empowered this stakeholder group to assert their “right-ness” so loudly and publicly. Apple’s approach to handling an issue flies in the face of everything we’re taught in terms of customer service and communications, yet we’re willing to bet it won’t put a dent in iPhone 4 sales, let alone the company’s profit margin.

Is this new reality-that brands can disregard customer service doctrine if they are entrenched enough among their target audience-going to become the rule rather than the exception?

According to a new report from brand measurement firm General Sentiment, BP’s brand value has taken an estimated $1-billion hit as a result of the Deepwater Horizon explosion on April 21st, and the subsequent oil spill that continues to wreak havoc in the Gulf of Mexico-this based on a sentiment analysis of relevant conversations taking place in online channels since April (see image, courtesy of TechCrunch).

With the world watching in horror as the crisis continues to unfold, no one should be surprised that the estimated decrease in BP’s brand value is so staggering (it’s congruent with the massive plummet in the company’s stock, after all). Most interesting to us, though, is the report’s calculation that, since June 1st, the average loss surpasses $32 million a day.

Then again, this isn’t surprising either when you consider the events that have transpired since June 1st-namely, BP’s obvious reluctance to provide straightforward answers to the public. In the congressional hearings last week on Capitol Hill, BP CEO Tony Hayward sidestepped questions surrounding the cause of the spill and who was to blame. “I had no prior knowledge of the drilling of this well, none whatsoever,” he said during the hearing, as reported by New York Times.

This air of vagueness that borders on apathy, coupled with his recent weekend of yachting and a comment that he “would like [his] life back,” certainly isn’t helping the company’s efforts to triage its devastated reputation. Then again, neither are the PR and advertising campaigns, which continue to pump out faceless corporate messaging that smacks of ambiguity.

In an era of instant information online and consumer-created content, the public equates brand quality with corporate transparency and personal responsibility. Given BP’s do either, the colossal hits to its brand and bottom line are simply the cost of doing business badly.

For a brand known primarily for its above-the-line marketing campaigns, Gatorade’s new mission control center suggests a major move by the company to amplify its online engagement efforts.

The Gatorade Mission Control Center-a room that literally sits at the center of the marketing department in the company’s Chicago headquarters-is a hub for all things social media monitoring, from data visualization and sentiment analysis, to real-time conversation tracking (see video clip below for a snapshot of Mission Control in action).

According to a report from Mashable, the goal of creating this custom monitoring solution is to “take the largest sports brand in the world and turn it into largest participatory brand in the world”-this from Gatorade’s Senior Marketing Director, Consumer & Shopper Engagement, Carla Hassan. To this end, the brand is fully leveraging insights from Mission Control to inform brand marketing strategies as they roll out, often times tweaking programs mid-campaign based on their findings. Consider the following example, courtesy of Mashable’s report:

• Following the launch of its G Series in early 2010, the Pepsi-owned company rolled out its “Gatorade has evolved” campaign to promote the product line’s newest variant, G Series Pro

• As part of the marketing program, the brand aired TV commercials featuring snippets of a song by rapper David Banner

• Almost immediately, Mission Control data showed the commercial was being heavily discussed in social media channels, with conversations pointing to a high level of interest

• In response to the volume and sentiment of conversations, the Gatorade team put together a full-length version of the song and distributed it via Facebook and Twitter, all within 24 hours

As for Mission Control’s day-to-day application, Hassan says the marketing department uses it to optimize landing pages to ensure users are driven to place that immediately captures their attention. And it appears to be working, with the marketing team reporting up to 250% increases in engagement and 15+% decreases in exit rates for specific pages’ content.

The bottom line: This is one of the best examples we’ve seen of a company using insights from proactive, real-time conversation monitoring to inform online, offline and above-the-line marketing strategies. Kudos to Gatorade for being the one to do it!


A new report from Nielsen finds that social media and blogs account for 22% of all time spent online, which translates into one in every four and a half minutes.

This rapid increase in time spent on social networks is another indication of how critical it is for communicators to have a holistic measurement program that considers social media and other online media in an integrated fashion. As audiences move seamlessly between the traditional and social web, as well as share content between the two, it is becoming more and more problematic to measure brand mentions separately in these mediums.

Additionally, Neilsen found that for the first time ever, social network or blog sites are visited by three quarters of global consumers who go online, after the numbers of people visiting these sites increased by 24% over last year. The average visitor spends 66% more time on these sites than a year ago, almost 6 hours in April 2010 versus 3 hours, 31 minutes last year. Brazil and India report that social media sites reach as high as 86% and 78% of their populations, respectively.

For communications professionals managing global brands, this highlights the need for a globally coordinated traditional and social media communications strategy to make sure that consistent and relevant messages are being managed and delivered company-wide, since social media communications are visible globally.

A good example of this is the interplay between the British and American audiences reacting to the BP oil leak crisis. Although these audiences have very different concerns that BP needs to address, BP’s communications within one region need to keep the reaction in the other region in mind, since all communications will be seen and reacted to in both geographies. A tightly coordinated effort is necessary to make sure that communications appropriate for one audience don’t create a negative reaction from another audience, as we have seen in this case.

The recent pseudo-unveiling of the man behind @BPGlobalPR has the PR industry all a-Twitter with the “who/what/where/when/why and how” of the situation at hand and, more importantly, its implications on brand/reputation management during times of crisis.

The owner of the Twitter handle in question, who used the alias “Leroy Stick” to pen blog post on Street Giant last week, launched his satirical tweetstream in the weeks following the oil rig explosion that prompted the worst oil spill in U.S. history. As his profile gained followers (as of this writing, the audience is in excess of 134,000), the media took notice-after all, his highly critical, sardonic tone all but guaranteed the source of the tweets was not an official BP spokesperson (see image below).

With last week’s blog post, Mr. Stick shed some light on his motive for becoming a sharp-tongued brand imposter:

“I started @BPGlobalPR, because the oil spill had been going on for almost a month and all BP had to offer were bullshit PR statements. No solutions, no urgency, no sincerity, no nothing. That’s why I decided to relate to the public for them. I started off just making jokes at their expense with a few friends, but now it has turned into something of a movement.”

He then shifted his vitriol from BP to PR professionals at large, writing:

“I’ve read a bunch of articles and blogs about this whole situation by publicists and marketing folk wondering what BP should do to save their brand from @BPGlobalPR. First of all, who cares? Second of all, what kind of business are you in? I’m trashing a company that is literally trashing the ocean, and these idiots are trying to figure out how to protect that company? One pickledick actually suggested that BP approach me and try to incorporate me into their actual PR outreach. That has got to be the dumbest, most head-up-the-ass solution anyone could possibly offer.”

His sophomoric language aside, he actually raises some interesting questions about the role PR plays in the modern communications environment. If brands’ identities are actually owned and defined by individuals’ own interpretations of them (and Mr. Stick suggests they are), then is there really anything PR/communications can do during a crisis like BP’s? If you agree with Stick, the answer is “no.” So, what do you think? Here’s a final thought from Mr. @BPGlobalPR to consider while you decide:

“The point is, FORGET YOUR BRAND. You don’t own it because it is literally nothing. You can spend all sorts of time and money trying to manufacture public opinion, but ultimately, that’s up to the public, now isn’t it?”

Nestlé’s recent run-in with Greenpeace over its palm oil-deforestation controversy has already become a modern-day social media crisis case study, joining the ranks of Domino’s, United Airlines and, once upon a time, Dell (whether it will eventually rise from the ashes to become the quintessential digital darling like the latter did remains to be seen). Now, according to a statement from Greenpeace itself, the confectionary company has agreed to activists’ demands, formally announcing a “zero deforestation” policy in partnership with The Forest Trust.

Which can only mean one thing: Greenpeace has its sights set on a new target, and this time, the bull’s eye is on a bank-HSBC, to be exact.

Greenpeace has had its eye on HSBC for some time over its investments in Sinar Mas, the Indonesian conglomerate that sources palm oil for companies like Nestlé. For its part, HSBC’s stance on environmental protection seems pretty clear: According to its Web site, “HSBC has a long standing commitment to protecting the environment and believes it is fundamental to a thriving society and sound economy – upon which business depends.”

Of course, this doesn’t stand up to Greenpeace’s allegations. Our question, though, is how its campaign against HSBC will play out. For Nestlé, as we know, the battleground was the brand’s own Facebook page. But HSBC’s branded social media ecosystem is less cohesive. Its First Direct online banking solution has a social media newsroom and, more importantly, a real-time, public-facing monitoring dashboard. But there isn’t a Masterbrand Facebook page or Twitter profile, for example.

What tactics do you expect Greenpeace to take against HSBC in the social media realm? And will their approach to real-time monitoring and transparency vis-à-vis First Direct apply if the issue reaches critical mass?

Digerati are all a-twitter over Facebook’s slew of recent announcements, all of which have major implications-not only for the ongoing socialization of the Web as we know it, but also for the way brands interact with consumer audiences.

The first such announcement came at the end of March, when the company began alerting advertisers that it would be changing the language on Facebook pages so that users will connect by clicking “Like” rather than “Become a Fan.” The reason, according to Facebook (via Mashable):

“‘Like’ offers a light-weight, consistent way for users to connect with the things they are passionate about. This lighter-weight action for connecting to a Page on Facebook means that users will be making more connections across the site, including your Facebook Page … in fact, people click ‘Like’ almost two times more than they click ‘Become a Fan’ everyday.”

The announcement was met with skepticism, as it confuses the widely understood notion of what becoming a fan really means: that you’ll receive the page’s status updates in your newsfeed (this is still the case with the switch to “Like”). Beyond that, though, it also begs the question of how it will change the relationship between brands and those who “Like” them. After all, the act of fanning a page had an automatic barrier to entry for brand haters, as doing so resulted in an automatic update that showed up in all their friends’ newsfeeds-i.e., “Kevin became a fan of dna13 (which we encourage you to do!). This proclamation would have likely discouraged a passive critic from fanning the page for the sole purpose of being a heckler. With this barrier now gone, brands should pay extra-close attention to any such hecklers who might relish this newfound anonymity.

Immediately following the switch from “Become a Fan” to “Like,” Facebook added a new category into the fold along with profiles, pages and groups: Community pages, which are meant for the non-brand-owned, unofficial Facebook pages that represent a topic, not a company, celebrity, etc. (see image below).

The main difference between traditional pages and Community pages comes with scale: once the number of fans-er, “likes”-of a Community page reaches a certain threshold, all users will have administrative rights, much like with a wiki. This gives users the ability to “like” topics in addition to brands. Plus, instead of pushing status updates out to users’ newsfeeds, these Community pages pull IN public content from relevant status updates from around the platform.

Now, fast-forward to yesterday, when Facebook added another yet another layer to the “Like” change with the news that “liked” pages and Community pages can now be liked to profile pages and displayed under the “Likes and Interests” section. This is yet another amplification of the “socialization of the Web” trend, with Facebook’s integration capabilities continuing to extend beyond the platform’s proverbial walls (no pun intended). Case in point: The Taggable bookmarklet, which debuted on April 20th, gives users the ability to tag their friends in photos that live on other Web sites outside of Facebook through the Facebook Connect plug-in.

We know this is a lot to digest all at once, but we’re interested to know what you think of these changes. Will changing “Become a Fan” to “Like” introduce new threats from brand detractors? What do the change’s implications for measuring sentiment have on the evolution of social CRM? Let us know what you think, and we’ll keep you posted as we process the developments as well.

In the meantime, for more thoughts on social CRM, check out dna13′s newest white paper, “Social CRM Changes the Game for Sales, Marketing and Communications Professionals.”

Digerati are all a-twitter over Facebook’s slew of recent announcements, all of which have major implications-not only for the ongoing socialization of the Web as we know it, but also for the way brands interact with consumer audiences.

The first such announcement came at the end of March, when the company began alerting advertisers that it would be changing the language on Facebook pages so that users will connect by clicking “Like” rather than “Become a Fan.” The reason, according to Facebook (via Mashable):

“‘Like’ offers a light-weight, consistent way for users to connect with the things they are passionate about. This lighter-weight action for connecting to a Page on Facebook means that users will be making more connections across the site, including your Facebook Page … in fact, people click ‘Like’ almost two times more than they click ‘Become a Fan’ everyday.”

The announcement was met with skepticism, as it confuses the widely understood notion of what becoming a fan really means: that you’ll receive the page’s status updates in your newsfeed (this is still the case with the switch to “Like”). Beyond that, though, it also begs the question of how it will change the relationship between brands and those who “Like” them. After all, the act of fanning a page had an automatic barrier to entry for brand haters, as doing so resulted in an automatic update that showed up in all their friends’ newsfeeds-i.e., “Kevin became a fan of dna13 (which we encourage you to do!). This proclamation would have likely discouraged a passive critic from fanning the page for the sole purpose of being a heckler. With this barrier now gone, brands should pay extra-close attention to any such hecklers who might relish this newfound anonymity.

Immediately following the switch from “Become a Fan” to “Like,” Facebook added a new category into the fold along with profiles, pages and groups: Community pages, which are meant for the non-brand-owned, unofficial Facebook pages that represent a topic, not a company, celebrity, etc. (see image below).

The main difference between traditional pages and Community pages comes with scale: once the number of fans-er, “likes”-of a Community page reaches a certain threshold, all users will have administrative rights, much like with a wiki. This gives users the ability to “like” topics in addition to brands. Plus, instead of pushing status updates out to users’ newsfeeds, these Community pages pull IN public content from relevant status updates from around the platform.

Now, fast-forward to yesterday, when Facebook added another yet another layer to the “Like” change with the news that “liked” pages and Community pages can now be liked to profile pages and displayed under the “Likes and Interests” section. This is yet another amplification of the “socialization of the Web” trend, with Facebook’s integration capabilities continuing to extend beyond the platform’s proverbial walls (no pun intended). Case in point: The Taggable bookmarklet, which debuted on April 20th, gives users the ability to tag their friends in photos that live on other Web sites outside of Facebook through the Facebook Connect plug-in.

We know this is a lot to digest all at once, but we’re interested to know what you think of these changes. Will changing “Become a Fan” to “Like” introduce new threats from brand detractors? What do the change’s implications for measuring sentiment have on the evolution of social CRM? Let us know what you think, and we’ll keep you posted as we process the developments as well.

In the meantime, for more thoughts on social CRM, check out dna13′s newest white paper, “Social CRM Changes the Game for Sales, Marketing and Communications Professionals.”

Piggybacking off of an earlier post on the quality v. quantity conundrum of reputation management, the process of selecting the most appropriate PR software for your needs is riddled with obstacles. For starters, new solutions seem to emerge almost daily, making it difficult to know where to begin. Then, you must assess each provider’s capabilities against your own needs:

  • What breadth and depth of media coverage is sufficient?
  • What level of analysis are you looking for?
  • Reporting capabilities?
  • Customization?
  • Alignment with other organizational activities?

With all of these questions in mind, the following checklist outlines the most important areas to evaluate when selecting a communications management platform:

  • Issues-centric analysis: This functionality allows users to classify every piece of data, from internal activities to social media conversations, and assign it to a specific issue/topic/campaign. This enables rapid retrieval, roll-up reporting, demonstration of ROI through customizable reports, and identification of trends and patterns.
  • Automation: The most effective communications management applications can be rapidly deployed, configured and reconfigured as needed, and have comprehensive customization options. The biggest failure of most automated applications is the lack of customer service and back-end support, so consider this when seeking a solution.
  • Security: It is critical that the software platform have permission-based security clearances that are aligned with workflow and organizational hierarchies.
  • Collaboration and convenience: The most strategic communications applications use topic-specific collaboration functionality that ties together corporate users, agencies, spokespeople and the C-suite. Collaboration functionality should also promote sharing information across the enterprise. Likewise, convenience is critical and hinges on easy deployment and a user-friendly interface.
  • Media relations/research: Media relationships remain a vital part of PR success, and your communications management platform should support the process of cultivating these relationships by providing information surrounding journalists/bloggers interests, reporting histories, biases and engagement preferences.

For more information on evaluating communications management platforms, check out dna13′s white paper, “How to select PR software that safeguards branding“.

When Heather Armstrong‘s Whirpool washing machine broke down, she was yet another stay-at-home mom with an appliance problem. That is, until she logged onto her Twitter account, where over 1 million people have registered to follow each and every of her 140-character-or-less tweets.

Armstrong has run her popular blog, Dooce, since 2001, when she began writing about the single life and trappings of a real world job. But Armstrong’s popularity ramped up considerably after marrying and having two daughters, to the point where dooce.com has become an easy way for family-friendly advertisers to reach tech-savvy women with buying power via the Internet.

So when Armstrong began advising her legions of Twitter followers against buying Maytag last week, it was a matter of hours before both Whirlpool Corp (they own Maytag) and The Home Depot‘s Twitter accounts were trying to contact her through responding tweets and phone calls.


Screenshot via Twitter – how’s that for customer service?

Interestingly, by the end of the incident, Bosch, an uninvolved, competing appliance company ended up donating a washing machine and dryer to a shelter in Salt Lake City at Armstrong’s request.


Bosch Appliances, not Whirlpool, ended up donating appliances after the Twitter incident.

That’s when the focus of the story switches to Whirlpool and Bosch. Because Armstrong used her Twittersphere influence to complain about her Maytag machine, Jeff Piraino, manager of Whirpool’s executive offices in Michigan, phoned Armstrong himself to coordinate the arrival of a new repairman (and yes, the machine got fixed). Through relatively little effort, the company was able to fix a problem with a blogger with potential to turn her readership’s buying power elsewhere – all this took was a tweet and a few phone calls to get back into Armstrong’s good graces.

In an age where tweeting is rapidly becoming the new word-of-mouth advertising, this public response should be considered a victory on Whirlpool’s part. Intriguing though, is Bosch’s position in the situation. Although Armstrong could have accepted the washer and dryer Bosch offered as a remedy to her broken Maytag model, she suggested they donate the appliances to a shelter. It was a good move by Bosch, which garnered the company attention without even having to remedy what was ultimately a problematic appliance complaint. You could ask, did they have an option at that point? In any case, the potential backlash against Armstrong for receiving special attention was neutralized, Whirlpool made an important customer happy, and another appliance corporation received a bit of buzz in the blogosphere for getting involved.

This all begs the question of whether or not this “problem” was a product of companies not quite knowing how to interact with customers through social media. Are corporations going to battle it out when a well-placed tweet endangers a brand reputation? Washing machines fail. It’s a fact. And even if the customer happens to be a popular Internet figure, the truth is that there are hundreds of other people on the hotline waiting to hear word about their own appliances. Since the solution took relatively little effort – especially on Whirlpool’s part – the situation was cleaned up nicely.

Ultimately, the responsibility of those in charge of maintaining a brand image comes in picking and choosing whether or not a consumer complaint has enough strength to be damaging.  In reality, many of such complaints rarely have a lasting impact, even if placed by someone like Armstrong.

So if handling complaints through the traditional methods still seems to work, why is the company’s Twitter account manager getting involved?

Branding through social media is a relatively new concept, and we can see how the dooce/Whirlpool/Bosch situation emphasizes the point that no one really knows what the solution is to handling unhappy consumers through Web-based applications. The trick is to recognize potential volatility of dealing with an angry, albeit influential, customer through social media applications. In many cases, a solution will not be as urgently needed as it might seem. Knowing what you are “listening to” in social media becomes vitally relevant.