Brand Anarchy: when the audience answers back

Brand Anarchy: when the audience answers back


Gold cards and Platinum cards are a token of yesteryear’s social climber. If you want to get premium service today you need to get a TripAdvisor luggage tag. The TripAdvisor luggage tag says that I’m an active on social networks and a keen reviewer on It strikes fear into the heart of restaurateurs and hoteliers the world over. It guarantees good service and upgrades.

Organisations are investing huge amounts in building a narrative around their brands.  Content in all its forms is the fuel of brand storytelling that engages the modern audiences via social forms of media.

Brands begin listening But as organisations pile into social media they are quickly realising that the old tactics of spewing content out to an audience will only get them so far. Thanks to social networks such as Facebook and Twitter customers can answer back.

The good news is that brands are starting to listen because they have no other option.

But guess what? Sometimes the things that customers have to say aren’t very nice. On sites such as Amazon and TripAdvisor this manifests itself as lousy reviews.

I’m sure I’m not alone in ignoring a restaurant or hotel with less than four stars because there are so many other options. Equally I’m suspicious of clean five star reviews. Sorry but real life simply doesn’t work like that.

When the going gets tough When I started out in my career as a journalist 20 years ago I used to call out poor service with the toddler like tantrum “do you know who I am?”

The implicit threat was that if I didn’t receive the attention that I thought I deserved I would seek revenge with a damning write-up. It almost always worked.

Now anyone with a reasonable social media following can make that threat.

Mobile devices mean that people can complain in real time whenever they receive poor service. You see this day in day out if you plug into your social network during a commuter period.

It’s Brand Anarchy (that’s a very unsubtle plug for the book I wrote last year with Steve Earl).

This content is scattered across the internet for search engines to uncover. If it goes unanswered reputational damage is inevitable for the brands concerned.

Critics to advocates It can be so different. Brands that engage with online criticism can very quickly build advocacy.

Bodyform, a manufacturer of sanitary products, responded to criticism via its Facebook page last year with a video that generated attention across the social web. A young man who was clearly very pleased with the fact that he’d passed puberty and had a girlfriend for the first time called out the brand for its misleading advertising.

In a rant on the Bodyform Facebook page he said that he now realised that periods were difficult for women and that they weren’t at all like the joyful experiences of running, jumping, horse riding and swimming portrayed in its advertising.

Bodyform responded with a wonderful piece of creative. In a video a spokesperson for the company acknowledged its failing but suggested that it was a deliberate ploy because men couldn’t cope with the truth.

The video lit up Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. It was a standout example of agile social media marketing.

Brands must engage with their audiences even when the going gets tough. This requires breaking down the silos between departments in an organisation and a level of candour that many brands are not used too.

Finally if you haven’t got a TripAdvisor luggage tag you need to get yourself one.

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CIPR State of the Profession: media, market and professional change

CIPR State of the Profession: media, market and professional change