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Dyson Airblade vs social mediaOne of the big fears about social media is that it provides a platform for consumers to make lots of bad noise about brands. This is what most senior marketing folk are afraid of, if they have reservations about the impact of Facebook and Twitter. 

When the customer experience falls short of expectations people can easily complain about it in public, and if the network effect takes hold then the brand concerned could be in for a rough ride. 

At that stage the brand needs to figure out what to do, and fast. Any social media ‘expert’ will tell you that transparency, honesty, responding in public and a hands-up-we-screwed-up approach to taking the blame all matter, in terms of how you react.

But hold on a moment: let’s not believe that stupid mantra about the customer always being right! What happens if the customer is wrong? Or worse, what happens when one of your competitors teams up with the aggrieved customer to stick it to your brand / product / service? 

Dyson has found out the hard way...

Dyson is dealing with a small social media fire, sparked by Nick Donnelly’s post called ‘Why Dyson Airblade is Shit’, on his often insightful (and amusing) Usability Hell blog. 

Nick’s beef with the Airblade is that it provides an “awkward an unnatural” way of drying your hands, among other things. He lists a bunch of other reasons and signs off with a “back to the drawing board on this one, James…”.

Dyson made all the right moves by responding quickly. It asked Nick for the location of the machine to see if it was faulty. Nick was “quickly impressed with the engagement - thinking ‘wow, Dyson gets it’". So far so good.

But then something dastardly happened. A competitor, Mitsubishi Electric threw a massive curve ball at Dyson by wading into the comments on Nick’s post (the first comment, as it happens: fast work, ye competitor reputation monitors!). 'Mitsubishi' claimed that it has a dryer that is quieter, quicker and more effective. Uh oh.

At this point Dyson decided to call it a day, as far as further participation in the discussion was concerned:

“We entered this conversation looking to locate a faulty machine and clarifying what we felt were factually misleading statements. We feel that the direction that this thread is going in will go nowhere (apart from some interesting fodder for you, Nick) and we're not willing to play, I'm afraid.”

Nick’s view on this? “Dyson threw their toys out of the pram and went crying home to mummy.”

I’m not sure I agree. Dyson backed up as soon as a competitor windmilled into the action. The main problem here is one of validation: nobody knows that the comment from ‘mitsubishielectric’ was actually from Mitsubishi Electric. There was no signature, no URL and no proof that this was the real deal. It looked like it was, based on the content, but who knows for sure? Not Dyson. 

So what to do? If you take it at face value and assume the comment is from a competitor, as you must, then you need to figure out whether it is worth getting into a slanging match with a competitor?

Dyson thought better of it, and I think it was perfectly fine for the company to back out of the room as soon as a competitor appeared. For another brand it would be a sackable offence not to have a fight with a competitor in public (can you imagine Ryanair NOT wading in?). It’s horses for courses. There are few fixed rules in social media: you have to do what’s right for your brand.

What’s important in social media is the way you respond to complaints, and convincing consumers that you care enough to listen and learn. I don’t think going mano-a-mano with a competitor in the comments section of a blog is particularly classy, or necessary (although we’ve done it before!).

Brands need a thick skin and large ears. Nick was certainly being critical, but constructive too. We review new websites on this blog and while it’s hard not to take criticism personally we’re genuinely trying to help people make better web experiences. Websites, like most products, should be finessed over time through a series of design iterations. Criticism is simply an opportunity to make a better product.

At any rate, social media offers no hiding place for products and services that are (rightly or wrongly) perceived to be inferior, or below expectations in some way. So perhaps one social media trend will be to raise the bar, in terms of product quality, in order to combat badmouthing in public?

I’d love to hear your views on this. Did Dyson do the right thing? Should it have stood up for itself a little more, in the face of competitor combat activity? Was Nick being reasonable when he called the Airblade ‘shit’, or when he described Dyson’s approach to social media as an ‘abortion’?

Do leave some thoughts below...

[Image by jonrawlinson via Flickr, various rights reserved]

Chris Lake

Published 21 May, 2010 by Chris Lake

Chris Lake is CEO at EmpiricalProof, and former Director of Content at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter, Google+ or connect via Linkedin.

582 more posts from this author

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Nigel Sarbutts

Nigel Sarbutts, Managing Director at BrandAlert

I replied on Usability Hell to suggest that describing Dyson's response as 'an abortion' was disproportionate and that it was clear that this blogger was never going to be satisfied. The headline describing the product as 'shit' is a strong clue.

The reply I got was that 'abortion' referred to Dyson's 'aborted' attempts to engage. Make of that what you will.

It's perfectly reasonable for a company to withdraw from a conversation that is plainly going nowhere, if nothing else because even in the wonderland of social media, the laws of cost/benefit still apply.

This guy was never going to buy a Dyson Airblade product and has trenchant views about the product and seems a little angry. Unless your company has infinite resources, you have to draw the line somewhere on how far you go to please someone. Dyson drew their line when a someone who may or may not have been a legit competitor waded and I think that was the right thing to do, otherwise they could have had slagging match on their hands with the blogger on the side, shouting 'fight, fight, fight.'

over 6 years ago

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digital agency girl

Its sad when this happens, but its up to the brand to effectively and pro-actively manage their brand reputation online. Before the social networking storm starts brewing, there should be someone ready to placate the situation by tweeting etc and interacting with their customers. Brands cant just sit back and do nothing - in many cases, Twitter and the like are bigger than their brands will ever be.

over 6 years ago

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Steve

I am sure Dyson will not be the last to get a product slated by someone online, personally I think Dyson did exactly the right thing. They tried to find out what was wrong and the reason for the post about a product that they obviously value very highly, and when it seemed that the conversation with a competitor was going to get childish they did what the sensible adult should do and backed down. It could have easily turned into a slanging match of "Your product doesn't do this.." and "You product lacks...." but they did the sensible thing.

In Nicks case at least he had tried the product before he started slating it, many bloggers get shot down with a simple "Have you tried it!?" post, to which if the answer is no (in a lot of cases it is) then there is no need to continue the conversation. Maybe the title was a little harsh but it got their attention and would probably been given the opportunity to correct things until the competitor put their oar in.

As for a competitor wading in with their comments, well each to their own but lets face facts they are a competitor with a rival product, of course they are going to see the opportunity to have a dig. Was that the grown up response? Probably not, however each social media strategy has a different way of dealing with things and calling out your competition when someone is openly unhappy with it is an ideal way of getting favor for your own product.

All in all no one actually did anything wrong, Dyson tried to correct the situation and then stood down when they saw it was going to turn childish, Nick wrote a blog post that he was passionate about and got the attention of not only the supplier but also the competition and Mitsubishi Electric were monitoring their brand as well as their competitions brands enough to see an opportunity to promote its own products on a competitors weak moment.

over 6 years ago

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Nick Donnelly

Thanks for your take on this.

As I say - I think Dyson did a lot right.

I have been talking to them & whilst I do now fully understand their reasoning, I will be updating the post soon with my suggestions on what I think would have been a better response.

Nigel - I agree there are lines, its all about where you draw them and how you come across when articulating that in public. I will deal with that more in my updated post.

Thanks.

over 6 years ago

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manu

My feeling is that Dyson did make the right move by standing out of the "fight" BUT they should have done this differently.

As a reader of the Usability Hell blog, I'm here to hear about funny little things that weren't thought right. 

I wanted to read a witty/funny response, something in line with the blog's editorial.

The beginning of Dyson's answer is corporate smart and classic social media response.

But instead of the "we're not willing to play", something like "we're not willing to transform Nick's comment section into a WalMart price comparison page" would have been better.

Or maybe something else. 

The point being that social media response should be about having an ear for your customers or anyone talking about your brand AND about having the right words depending on the context of the social online conversation. 

As I said, that's just my feeling :)

over 6 years ago

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Ben Bold

Interesting piece. But don't you mean "arse", rather than "ass"; unless of course you're referring to Dyson riding around on a donkey.

over 6 years ago

Chris Lake

Chris Lake, CEO at Empirical Proof

@Ben Nah, I mean ass, as in arse. Both are acceptable by my reckoning... ;  )

over 6 years ago

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AdrianEXG

Just because Dyson decides not to enter into what is likely to become a one-legged bo**ock-kicking competition doesn't make them or their products or their customer service bad/poor.

Perhaps what this proves is that social media isn't for everyone, although Dyson did make a good start to resolving the originally alleged 'issue' - some might argue that wiping your hands on a piece of fluffy cotton (towel) that has been used by umpteen others is "awkward and unnatural".

Horses for courses eh?

To obtain a more accurate picture it would be useful to have a fuller description of the gripe against the Airblade (which I have always found to be by far the best hand dryer around).

over 6 years ago

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Robin Laverick

Before I start, my company sells both of the hand dryers mentioned in our online store.

I think talk of whether any of this was fair or unfair to Dyson is besides the point. Its just the way client's want it to be now and some corporate adjustments need to be made. How many of us have made calls to a large company's customer helpline with a problem, been briskly dealt with and then left feeling helpless and wronged. The problem is no-one heard how the representative spoke to you on the phone or made a note of the misinformation that they gave you. It was a private disagreement between you and them and that's the way they like it. People want to shout their annoyances from the rooftops now and they have the technology to let the whole world listen.

I was interested in the Nick Donnelly's post because it echoed comments I'd heard before and I thought the blog title was outrageous. I expected Dyson to come down heavy on the post and was pleasantly surpised when they responded in a conciliatory and constructive way (I'd never seen them comment on a blog at all before).

It wasn't until Dyson mentioned Drying times of other manufacturer's machines that I felt they'd gone a bit far without backing up their claims. I asked Mitsubishi what they thought of these claims and naturally they disagreed and wanted to take a look.

Mitsubishi posted their response and then Dyson appeared to back pedal and then started talking about legal teams which seemed a bit premature.

I'm quite new to social marketing but if it was my product I would have considered carefully whether to say anything publicly at all (tempting, but somewhat against the times we're in). Having decided to get involved on the blog, twitter or wherever the main focus should surely have been on making sure the company and product came out looking as strong as possible.

Their use of language was considered, professional and helpful in tone which does them great credit, but to skate over a well issue with the product and blame it on the end user's lack of maintenance didn't work for me. They ended their involvement in the discussion with me thinking "Why does the most expensive and market leading dryer on market need so much ongoing maintenance, when they must know they aren't actually going to get it". I'm sure Dyson are capable of a re-design to stop this occuring to their dryers in the future

There's been some heated rebuffs to Nick Donnelly's blogs on this subject and I'm pretty sure he can take it. That being said he's entitled to express his opinion in any legal manner he wants and many more people are going to do the same with many more brands so they had better get used it.

It looks like this whole matter might be used as a test case in future on how to (or how not to) handle strong, public consumer criticism in the future. I think thats a good thing and in keeping with the natural order of this rapidly changing business world.

The cat can't be put back in the bag now. Companies may take a decision to keep out of any negative media regarding their products and services but that will only leave room for their competitors to shine by actually publicly responding to their customer's needs.  

over 6 years ago

dan barker

dan barker, E-Business Consultant at Dan Barker

To be honest I think Dyson come out of this rather well. On the one hand you have Dyson behaving very respectfully & gracefully. On the other you have Nick using words like 'shit' & 'abortion' to describe their products & service, with very little basis.

over 6 years ago

Deborah Lewis

Deborah Lewis, Managing Partner at The Hero Machine

Dyson's reputation is strong enough to ride this little incident - especially as so many people thing his air drier is fantastic, not least my children. If you have good products, good service, a vision and a programme for encouraging more young people to become engineers, a fantastic brand... you don't need to slang it out with competitors and even bloggers.

Of course, this would be different if his business and products were being heavily criticised.

I think Dyson did pretty well.

over 6 years ago

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Jack Thorogood

Dan Baker gets it right in these comments; Dyson come out well from this. It's quite something that they even bothered to dignify a snotty little article ("Why the Dyson Airblade is Shit") like this with a response. On the one hand you've got a decent company who have evidentally made some fantastic products (including the airblade IMHO) and on the other is a guy who has little better to do than criticise in an unconstructive manner other people's work. I'm not saying that Nick Donnelly doesn't have a right to say whatever he wants, but it's madness that an article which is such a 'look at me, I'm ever so smart' vanity piece has credibility attached to it. Dyson's decision not to go on massaging the guy's ego and inadequate self-esteem should not be portrayed as them somehow doing something wrong.

over 6 years ago

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Kristof

When a situation such as this arises, a company has two choices; engage or remain silent. If they engage and it starts looking like it's going to be a hard topic to cover, they can finish the conversation where it began or choose to take the conversation onto their own turf where they have more control. That said, I think this post is extremely misleading. After reading the article, I see there were 31 posted comments -- 7 (more than 1/4) of which were from Dyson. The first of which was their comment that they weren't going to engage in technical battle with Mitsubishi Electric. But yet they continued the conversation with Nick with six more follow-up comments -- and did so very professionally. So how exactly is that considered backing out of a discussion and "calling it a day"?

over 6 years ago

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Nick Donnelly

Dyson's Social Media Abortion.

Blog Post Updated 25 May 2010.

Considers points made in this post.

http://bit.ly/9lofKH

over 6 years ago

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Anonymous

Good comments all. But be more creative. Noone said the 'shit has hit the fan' on this one which is the obvious (but still amusing, if puerile) statement to make. I have little experience of any of these machines, preferring the use the jeans method that someone mentioned as the less I hang around a gents the better. If the airblade does get as dirty then yuk. The one thing about these types of machine are they are 1) so noisy 2) kick off as you walk past or get close to them them, giving you a huge fright if you're not ready for it. What's wrong with recycled paper towels anyway? They'd use less energy and natural resources. And as for the whole social media aspect, it looks to me like Dyson got out at the right time - these kind of conversations go nowhere fast. We've all got better things to do....

over 6 years ago

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jordan sneakers

It's perfectly reasonable for a company to withdraw from a conversation that is plainly going nowhere, if nothing else because even in the wonderland of social media, the laws of cost/benefit still apply

over 6 years ago

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carolyn joseph

Yes Dyson is right at this point and he must talk about the all figure out question in comment. But some time we should ignore that because lots of people comment on your blog so its tough to call everyone about to solve their issue. Its not fair!

over 6 years ago

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justinbryan

Its not fair because, by this way a small issue would become a big issue.

over 6 years ago

Edward Cowell

Edward Cowell, SEO Director at Guava UK

From reading everyone else comments it would seem we're pretty much in concensus. The poor internal Dyson employee manning the customer support helpdesk that day (who has now become the centre of this undue attention), conducted themselves with appropriate online professional decorum.

Good on them!!!

That said I actually don't like the Airblade very much. Any hand dryer that blows the water onto itself looks like a hygiene disaster waiting to happen...but that's a different discussion.

over 6 years ago

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Bill Scarab

Wow. The article was funny, but the comments are even funnier. I can only suggest that some of the readers here hang out on the "seedier" side of the internet for a while and see some of the outrageous claims that people make on a daily basis about any and everything and why arguing with said people only bring you down to their level. Dyson could have just not have given a shit but no, they have to be perfect because that is their brand image. A gay man designing a sucking machine is enough clout for me, but they want to really try and stomp the competition and make sure there is no question in your mind when you are about to ask, "why in the hell should I pay $400 for a plastic vacuum???" Have you ever asked yourself how the rolling ball technology works better? It has wonderful vented grooves that constantly roll past the intake tube to the ancillary intake tube- a break in the intake tube. Can you pour more water through a hose or a hose with a golfball with holes in it? Breaking the intake hose is dumb like claiming all of your competition still use fixed axle design for their wheels. Now they are selling a bladeless fan with blades in the base instead. Just so many dumb gimmicks that shouldn't cost more than $30. I guess that is worth paying people to scour the internet and squash dissention and downrank negative reviews of products by flooding the website with fake positive reviews. To each their own.

about 6 years ago

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Maria

Thanks for your take on this matter

over 5 years ago

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Jordan Foutz

I just got done writing a semi-scathing review on the Airblade yesterday, but it wasn't so much a bad review on Dyson as it was a rant about the crummy job people do washing their hands. If other companies responded in a like manner to manage their online reputations, people wouldn't have nearly as many headaches derived from poor online reviews. Dyson did about as much as they could do without being highly manipulative or seeming like they were too guilty.

about 5 years ago

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Sam

It's obvious from the outset that Nick Donnelly approached this with an arrogant assumption that he knew how to handle this exchange better than Dyson did. This was evidenced by his labelling Dyson's engagement as an 'abortion' (immature and insensitive 'lad-talk') and blowing his own trumpets at the end with his suggested 'wordings-according-to-Nick'. In reality, Dyson read him very well and made a good call not to play his game.

The irony of course is that Donnelly inadvertently gave us a better 'how not to do social media' lesson than the one he thought he was giving us. I've got to say, asking the people who disagreed with him if they worked for Dyson was a credibility footbullet.

Sorry Nick, somebody needs to tell you ;-)

over 4 years ago

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hasan

Social media is large issue,if we not take care for this issue,problem must be coming so take care its.

over 3 years ago

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