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New media channels – digital, social media and mobile – change marketing from a monologue to a conversation. It’s not just you talking – it’s your customers talking, too. And they’ll talk a lot more when you do something really dumb. In the spirit of a dialogue, if your brand screws up, what should you do to say, “I’m sorry”?

Here are 9 brands who, when they make mistakes, showed being vulnerability was good for business.

  • AMAZON: Remotely deleted George Orwell’s “1984″ from Kindle devices. Consumers were angry to discover that the book had suddenly vanished from their Kindles. Jeff Bezos posted an apology admitting the act was “stupid, thoughtless, and painfully out of line with [Amazon's] principles.” Amazon overcame an outrage and Amazon exceeded its projected Kindle sales by 60 percent for the year.
  • APPLE: Intended to give Google Maps a run for the money; instead, Apple Maps was a failure from the start. It functioned poorly and misdirected users. CEO Tim Cook issued an an immediate and open apology. The company didn’t lose stride during a period when it was rapidly increasing sales and its stock price.
  • BODYFORM: a UK maker of feminine hygiene products was called out by a snarky male on its Facebook page. The CEO apologized on YouTube with an equally snarky but appropriate response. It nullified the attack, generated PR and brand awareness to the tune of 5,320,375 views on YouTube. See for yourself.
  • DKNY: After a photographer realized that DKNY was using his photo in a window without his permission, he mobilized his community to share a post asking DKNY to donate $100,000 to a local YMCA in lieu of compensation. DKNY responded quickly by way of an apology that it was an accident promised to donate $25,000 to the YMCA. The photographer accepted it was an honest mistake and thanked them for the donation.
  • DOMINO: Via TV spots, Facebook, You and Twitter, J. Patrick Doyle, Domino’s president, expressed how important it was for their company to listen to their consumers – their most important asset. Domino’s profits rose to $23.6MM for the year.
  • KITCHEN AID: Someone who tweeted for KitchenAid thought they were posting from their personal account, but tweeted as KitchenAid instead. Happens all the time but some tweets got pretty offensive, including one at Barack Obama’s late grandmother. Head of KitchenAid Cynthia Soledad took responsibility for the tweet and offered an apology to Barack Obama and his family. It teaches the lesson to carefully choose the people who post for your company.
  • JOHNSON & JOHNSON: Found themselves with a customer loyalty problem when a particular brand of tampon in the O.B. line was discontinued in North America. People thought the whole O.B. line was being discontinued.
  • A Facebook group called for a boycott of all J & J products. A musical apology was sent out to over 65,000 loyal O.B. users, a list that covered about a 1,000 distinct names. The response was overwhelmingly positive from women.
  • O2: A European mobile service company, during a massive network outage, O2′s Twitter account became inundated with tweets by frustrated customers. Instead of issuing standard corporate responses, O2 responded to these tweets with an honest and light-hearted demeanor. Their human approach was extremely refreshing and sentiment changed dramatically as a result.
  • TACO BELL: Taco Bell recently combated a traditional attack (a class action lawsuit charging that the restaurant’s meat isn’t really beef) with new media techniques. On Twitter, Taco Bell linked to comedian Steven Colbert’s musings on the controversy; on Facebook, they offered free tacos, encouraging customers to make up their own minds about the beef in question. 7,000,000 million loyal Facebook “friends” showed their enthusiasm and the lawsuit has been dropped.

These examples prove: 1) Act fast, 2) respond with honesty and 3) say what’s going to be fixed. They also prove, if you use social channel and make a mistake, why wouldn’t you say you were sorry right away with honesty?

What do these examples prove to you?

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Rob Petersen

About Rob Petersen

Rob Petersen is an experienced advertising and marketing executive and President of BarnRaisers, a full service digital marketing agency that builds brands based on proven relationship principles and ROI. He is on the MBA Faculty of Rutgers CMD and is the author of two books on digital marketing.

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