Category Archives: Marketing

Are brands giving up on true social media?

Social media is a ceaseless tornado of comments, reviews and opinions. You need only accompany trending tweets, voting and comments on Reddit or read comments on YouTube to see how conversations and heated discussions have become one of the defining characteristics of Social Media. It is indeed an extension of human interaction and basic conversation.

Most people (aside from young millennials) will remember how brands used to connect with their audience: using Above and Below the Line campaigns with a one-direction message, with not much insight into perceiving how people reacted to their message aside from eyeball counts and the odd customer satisfaction survey.

With the growth of online networks, however, brands and companies started wrestling with the fact that they no longer had exclusive control of the public perception of their brand, much less the conversation surrounding it. You need only recall how some ill-fated social media campaigns (read here or here) fared to see that the public has become more critical and aware of what messages brands are trying to convey.

Switching from a conversation to a monologue

You might have noticed after viewing the above video that the comments for it have been disabled by the admins of the Virgin Atlantic YouTube account. Disabling comments was always an option, especially when the uploader was an individual and their particular videos became inundated with spam or internet trolling behaviour. We should assume that this would only be a last case resort.

What are we to assume, then, when brands like Virgin Atlantic, BT or even Britain’s Got Talent, for that matter, have disabled comments on the content they upload to YouTube? What are they trying to achieve when this signifies regressing to the old days of one-way communication (effectively a monologue)?

Regardless of the reasoning behind their options, these brand owners are thus abdicating from the opportunity to truly engage with the public as well as their current and potential customers. They are also forfeiting their right to monitor the conversations on a single channel, having to resort to costly and complicated social monitoring tools to pick up on discussions around their content across other outlets such as Twitter or Facebook.

Disabling comments is effectively trying to silence whatever positive or negative reactions this content might inspire. This might be comparable to a chain of stores selling their products from behind an automated dispensing machine, with no human interaction whatsoever.

The human connection, which makes social media such an effective tool for intelligent brand owners, is what brands seem to forget when they just want to push their agenda and ignore what people really think about them. When this becomes the norm within the company, you might wake up one day like Sony or Blackberry, struggling with business failures after years of hiding behind the numbers of market research and revenue results. If you’re not listening to and engaging with your customers, they will sooner or later go elsewhere to fulfil their needs.

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When adverts go viral for the wrong reasons

hyundai-advert-screen-captureHyundai ‘Pipe Job’ advert widely criticised

There have many cases of misguided or blatantly wrong marketing campaigns in recent times, especially when it comes to advertisements and social media. Examples include the Ford Figo advert in India or the Haribo Super Mix advert, that either garnered angry comments or were panned across all social networks.

Hyundai is the latest brand to fall victim to a rather poorly thought-out campaign creative, after a video advertisement for their new ix35 model was widely criticised. The reason? The video titled “Pipe Job” features a man (unsuccessfully) attempting to commit suicide by inhaling car exhaust fumes from his ix35. You will no longer find the video on YouTube or other mainstream video streaming sites, as supposed claims of  third party infringements have led to it being taken down.

However, if you feel strong enough and have not had the deeply regrettable impact of suffering from a loved one’s loss by way of suicide, you can click here to find a locally hosted video on a blog post by a specialist in Mental Health, Dr. John Grohol, CEO and founder of Psych Central.

The resulting social media storm is understandable and expected when you’re dealing with a sensitive topic such as a human life. So much so that an open letter by Holly Brockwell, a London-based digital copywriter, aimed at Hyundai and its agency Innocean has been widely circulated (read it here) and adds fuel to the fire of this unfortunate advertisement.

Hyundai Europe has since issued an apology, but the deed is done and the impact of this story will seep though public conscientiousness, wiping out any good sentiment the brand might have had in recent years.

What are the lessons to be learnt? Quite a few:

  1. You may have a good product to market, but the wrong execution and creative will drive away an potential for connecting with consumers, resulting in failure for the brand and the product. GoCompare and Wonga are two examples of brands backtracking on campaign creative that have become a source of irritation for the general public.
  2. Understanding what the campaign creative is meant to make people feel is key to effective communication of brand values. If it’s not funny, not insightful, simply uninteresting or doesn’t add anything positive to the audience’s life then you seriously need to think about going back to the drawing board.
  3. Rethink your strategy so that you and your brand partners effectively know what you plan to achieve with your campaign. Making light of suicide is clearly not the way to go.
  4. Agencies are now outputting more and more content that doesn’t necessarily work in their client’s interests. It’s so easy to push out quantity as opposed to quality, so put in place exacting standards and procedures throughout the planning, creative and sign-off process to avoid disasters.

What are your view on this story? Are brands and agencies becoming more reckless with their marketing efforts? All comments are welcome.

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