Thursday, April 16, 2009

Brand Reputation 2.0

Tylenol used to be the derigour case study in brand reputation management with their handling of the tampering scare back in 1982. The key learning was, when disaster strikes, act swiftly and boldly, and most importantly reframe the context by asking yourself …how can this be the best thing that ever happened to my brand? Tylenol used this situation in an authentic and brilliant way to avert disaster and build brand trust.

Now the writers at Biz schools will have difficulty keeping up with all the new fodder for case material. Companies might own their trademark, but more than ever it’s the people - your employees, customers, suppliers, even your detractors who own your brand.

Welcome to the dawn of the social media age which is redefining traditional approaches to brand management. The biggest change is the speed in which new media are being used to start a groundswell. But the key strategy should remain the same. How can you turn something that’s gone horribly wrong into something amazingly right and build trust and admiration for your brand?

Let’s take a peek at events over the past two weeks. .

Disgruntled Employees – yikes! The Dominos miscreants (aka super gross-out cheese in nose food defacing video). Kudos to the Domino’s team for jumping right on this. Within 24 hours, they publicly dealt with employees and the CEO issued an apology to customers on YouTube and Twitter. But is this enough? There are two issues they could leverage to build even stronger trust for their brand. What can they do to become known as a leader in food safety and how can they use this incident to build a culture where employees will respect rather than deface their brand?

Here's a good overview of the whole story from a local North Carolina TV station.

#Amazonfail protest - (# is used as a hashtag to aggregate a topic in Twitter). When Amazon deleted the sales rankings of hundreds of gay- and lesbian-themed books, it caused a Twitter and blogging storm causing outrage and over 16,000 signatures to on-line petitions. Amazon’s response – it fixed the “problem” and issued a statement saying that this was “an embarrassing and ham fisted error”. I find it interesting that, instead of directly engaging with the G&L community, they decided to issue a statement. For a company held as a paragon of understanding customer’s desires, this is surprising. Missed opportunity? I think so. For example, they could have recovered goodwill by asking one of the more influential bloggers in the community to help curate a collection of titles, or something relevant that the community would like to see.

Shock-Schlock - Burger King’s version of Baby’s Got Back.

A polarizing ad to say the least. You’ll either laugh and think this is brilliant (hmm – you’re likely male under 35) or you’re deeply shocked and offended and will never step inside a Burger King again (you might be female over 30). It has womens’ and childrens’ rights groups up in arms. This ad shot to the number 3 ranked spot in YouTube viewership in less than 3 weeks and has close to a 5 star rating.

Is Burger King the new Howard Stern of the hamburger world? Wassup? Is taking the "low road" a short sighted brand reputation management strategy for a burger joint or are they building "trust" with their core demographic by offending mainstreet? Authentic? Brilliant? You be the judge.

To top things off, BK is now being accused of racism for running an ad supporting the "Texican Whopper" in Spain and the U.K. While the ad seems harmless enough when you play it, Spaniards and Mexicans took offense to the cultural stereotyping and disrespect towards the Mexican flag in the print version (see above).

Burger King has agreed to change out the ads when they are "commercially able". Given their appetite for controversy, this seems out-of-character. Mexico is, however, the fast-food chain's #2 market.

Please share your comments.

p.s. A couple of cool sources to visit:

Church of the Customer
blog for more insights and stats on Amazon & Dominoes.
Twendz - a new tool that tracks Twitter conversations and sentiment as it's happening.
Burger King - the bad-boy of fast food

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