tag:econsultancy.com,2008:/topics/reputation-management Latest Reputation management content from Econsultancy 2018-02-02T10:00:00+00:00 tag:econsultancy.com,2008:BlogPost/69764 2018-02-02T10:00:00+00:00 2018-02-02T10:00:00+00:00 Kodak demonstrates why brands should tread carefully with blockchain initiatives Patricio Robles <p>Many of these applications are in the world of finance but the blockchain's potential extends beyond financial services. For instance, there <a href="https://econsultancy.com/blog/69712-four-ways-the-blockchain-could-be-applied-to-digital-advertising">are ways it could be used in the digital advertising market</a> to address pressing issues like fraud.</p> <p>But established brands would be wise to tread carefully when it comes to blockchain initiatives.</p> <p>That's because the blockchain hype has led to a flood of <a href="https://www.wired.com/story/cryptocurrency-scams-ico-trolling/">obvious scams</a> as well as questionable behavior that some suggest is not exactly on the up-and-up.</p> <p>For example, a number of publicly-traded companies, most of them small and previously unheard of, <a href="https://www.theregister.co.uk/2018/01/22/blockchain_rebrand_sends_stapleton_capitals_shares_soaring/">have pivoted to the blockchain</a>, sending the prices of their shares soaring. Perhaps one of the most amusing examples of this phenomenon: a company called the Long Island Iced Tea Corp., which, as the name suggests, was in the business of making iced tea, changed its name to Long Blockchain Corp. and saw its stock more than triple on the news.</p> <p>Regulators, including officials at the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), have been warning investors about the risks of investing in these companies. And they have signaled that they are going to scrutinize companies that engage in this behavior. Even so, enforcement action has been limited.</p> <p>That, however, appears to be changing. This month, the SEC halted trading of shares in a Hong Kong-based blockchain company that had seen its stock price increase by 900% last year. </p> <p>And in what is its biggest enforcement action in the space to date, the SEC this week <a href="https://www.coindesk.com/sec-files-fraud-suit-against-crypto-bank-ico/">filed a lawsuit</a> against AriseBank, a Texas-based company that said it was building a cryptocurrency bank. AriseBank claims it raised over $1bn through an Initial Coin Offering (ICO) that the SEC says was fraudulent and represented an unregistered offering of securities.</p> <h3>The case of Kodak</h3> <p>Of course, the presence of bad actors in the nascent cryptocurrency and blockchain technology market doesn't mean that the entire market is full of bad apples.</p> <p>Case in point: Kodak <a href="https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20180109006183/en/KODAK-WENN-Digital-Partner-Launch-Major-Blockchain">recently announced</a> a blockchain initiative called KodakCoin, “a photo-centric cryptocurrency to empower photographers and agencies to take greater control in image rights management.”</p> <p>Kodak, of course, is the once-powerful imaging technology company. It filed for bankruptcy in 2012 and is today a shell of what it once was.</p> <p>But its brand, which was at one point synonymous with photography, is perhaps its most valuable remaining asset and by slapping it on a blockchain venture, Kodak's stock price rose more than 200% in the span of two days.</p> <p>Kodak's blockchain venture itself is real. The company wants to use the blockchain as the underpinning of KodakOne, an image rights management platform. That seems like a legitimate application for the technology. And Kodak has registered its ICO for KodakCoin, which could raise up to $20m, with the SEC, although <a href="https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/nation-now/2018/01/31/kodak-delays-kodakcoin-cryptocurrency/1082443001/">it is being delayed by several weeks</a> due to concerns over the vetting of investors.</p> <p>But while KodakCoin appears to be a legitimate blockchain effort, the meteoric rise of Kodak's stock price has caused the company to face considerable scrutiny. The New York Times <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2018/01/30/technology/kodak-blockchain-bitcoin.html">called Kodak's move</a> a "dubious cryptocurrency gamble" and pointed out that Kodak is really only lending its name to the blockchain venture. Its partner and the real brains behind the operation, a company named WENN Digital, is “a California-based affiliate of a British photo agency that specializes in paparazzi photo licensing.”</p> <p>The New York Times has noted that a lead adviser to KodakCoin “has a troubled track record” that includes being banned from the Alberta Stock Exchange for five years, and Marketwatch <a href="https://www.marketwatch.com/story/key-kodakcoin-exec-barred-from-serving-as-officer-in-german-companies-2018-02-01">yesterday reported</a> that the CTO of WENN Digital is banned from serving as an officer of a publicly-traded company in Germany.</p> <p>Throw in <a href="https://www.marketwatch.com/story/kodak-stock-pulls-back-directors-disclose-acquisitions-prior-to-blockchain-rally-2018-01-11">some interesting stock purchases and sales</a> by Kodak directors in the days leading up to and on the day of Kodak's KodakCoin announcement and you have fuel for a narrative that doesn't help Kodak's brand.</p> <p>But on substance, even if the blockchain skeptics and critics are ultimately wrong about how meaningful the impact the technology will have on the world, it's not at all clear that KodakCoin specifically has what it takes to succeed. While the problems the venture aims to solve are real ones, nothing presented by the company to date suggests that photographers and those wanting to license photos will embrace the KodakCoin model over the many existing approaches and platforms that are already in use.</p> <p>In fact, the New York Times has detailed what appear to be serious flaws in the KodakCoin model, such as the fact that only accredited investors will be able to buy and use KodakCoin.</p> <h3>Experiment before embracing</h3> <p>Kodak's experience highlights the primary reason that brands need to be careful about their blockchain initiatives: while blockchain tech is very promising, it's too early to tell which applications are going to be commercially viable and most brands are unlikely to have all the answers.</p> <p>They should by all means be willing to experiment with blockchain technology, but embracing it totally and using it to launch major offerings positioned as viable solutions to big problems looks incredibly premature.</p> <p>Put simply, the risk that such offerings won't be viable high and when you add on the risk of scrutiny from the public and powerful government agencies like the SEC, even brands that are trying to recapture their glory days, like Kodak, potentially have a lot to lose.</p> <p><em><strong>Want to learn more about the blockchain and marketing? Subscribers can download Econsultancy's <a href="https://econsultancy.com/reports/opportunities-and-challenges-for-marketers-in-2018/">Opportunities and Challenges for Marketers in 2018</a>.</strong></em></p> tag:econsultancy.com,2008:BlogPost/69153 2017-06-15T13:00:00+01:00 2017-06-15T13:00:00+01:00 How big brands coped with social media crises Nikki Gilliland <p>Social media crises can occur for a variety of reasons, ranging from accidental Tweets to massively misjudged marketing campaigns. And as we all know, they can spiral out of control incredibly fast. As a result, it’s important for brands to create a plan of action, including guidelines on how to act and respond both publically and internally. </p> <p>You can use Econsultancy’s new <a href="http://hello.econsultancy.com/socialmediacrisis/" target="_blank">Social Simulator tool</a> to test your own crisis plan. Meanwhile, here’s a bit of analysis on how some of the biggest brands in the world have reacted in the face of a social media storm, and why their strategies did or did not work.</p> <h3>British Airways</h3> <p>Brands often use social media to update or apologise to customers about a problematic service. This also means brands open themselves up to a surge of criticism – with users taking the opportunity to reply saying exactly what they think. </p> <p>British Airways recently took this approach in response to an IT failure that grounded hundreds of passengers in Heathrow and Gatwick, tweeting a video of chief executive Alex Cruz saying sorry.</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet"> <p lang="und" dir="ltr"><a href="https://t.co/E7B5im0C09">pic.twitter.com/E7B5im0C09</a></p> — British Airways (@British_Airways) <a href="https://twitter.com/British_Airways/status/868520211976212480">May 27, 2017</a> </blockquote> <p>Instead of curbing further reaction, the tweet generated a fresh wave of anger from disgruntled passengers, mostly complaining that they had been told very little otherwise. In turn, this made British Airways’ apology appear cursory – as if a single tweet would make up for the hours customers spent waiting for help and information. Combined with unanswered questions about the cause of the IT failure (and the suggestion that it was human error) – BA has been the subject of huge criticism on social and in mainstream media coverage.</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet"> <p lang="en" dir="ltr">Speaking as someone who was at Heathrow all morning, people aren't annoyed at the IT failure. They're annoyed about being kept in the dark.</p> — Jamie McConnell (@jsm) <a href="https://twitter.com/jsm/status/868531294967398400">May 27, 2017</a> </blockquote> <p>The question now is whether the current feeling will impact the airline’s reputation in the long-term. But could BA have prevented such a profoundly negative response? It seems unlikely considering the sheer scale of the inconvenience and annoyance caused by the problem, however the brand’s late and lacklustre response on social media has done nothing to help. </p> <p>Instead of using the medium in the moment of crisis - to respond and stay on top of customer queries - BA has largely been using it apologise way after the issue has occurred. Certainly not the best way to use social media for customer service, at <em>any</em> given time, let alone in the face of a huge crisis.</p> <p>Better or indeed heavier resource planning would have allowed British Airways to respond to user queries in the moment of customer need - even if there was no real update at that time. After all, it is better to respond to a question in any way possible rather than leave people hanging, with the latter only resulting in further criticism.</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet"> <p lang="en" dir="ltr">We're sorry you've been without your bag, Nelson. We hope you've now been reunited. ^Alex</p> — British Airways (@British_Airways) <a href="https://twitter.com/British_Airways/status/870512210304303106">June 2, 2017</a> </blockquote> <h3>KLM</h3> <p>This example is quite a few years old now, but KLM’s response to the 2010 ash cloud is a nice counterpoint to BA, demonstrating the benefits of embracing social media for customer support.</p> <p>When the ash cloud hit, KLM’s social media team and wider strategy was limited, however, it soon realised that its Twitter and Facebook channels would be the best way to stem the onslaught of queries coming in to phone lines and ticket desks.</p> <p>Instead of making do, KLM also decided to pour as many resources into social as possible, deploying volunteers and people from various other departments to respond to stranded passengers online.</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet"> <p lang="en" dir="ltr">If you're not able to contact us by phone for rebooking, please send us a request via twitter. We will then ask for details via DM.</p> — Royal Dutch Airlines (@KLM) <a href="https://twitter.com/KLM/status/12590724833">April 21, 2010</a> </blockquote> <p>When you compare KLM's tone of response to BA, it is far more directional and self-assured (arguably easier when the crisis is not self-inflicted). It's also interesting to note that it did not merely say sorry for its busy phone lines - instead giving users a simple and guaranteed alternative rather than a shallow apology.</p> <p>In the five years since, KLM has <a href="https://econsultancy.com/blog/65752-klm-we-make-25m-per-year-from-social-media/" target="_blank">continued to develop</a> its reputation for good social strategy. As well as focusing on fast response times, KLM strives to intercept user complaints to identify and solve problems as quickly as possible. With 42% of customers said to expect a reponse to a social media enquiry within 60 minutes - KLM's dedication to this has undoubtedly contributed to positive brand sentiment.</p> <h3>Walkers Crisps</h3> <p>Walkers Crisps was the culprit of a recent social media blunder, with a crisis arising from a seemingly innocent online competition for Champions League tickets. </p> <p>Run by Pepsico, owners of the Walkers brand, the competition involved people tweeting in selfies that would be featured alongside Gary Lineker in an automated video.</p> <p>Soon enough, users realised that the video generator was not being monitored by a real person, and would therefore accept any photo that was recognised as a human face. This led to a number of people sending in photos of notorious criminals like Jimmy Saville and Harold Shipman. </p> <p>Walkers promptly shut down the competition and responded with a single tweet. Not before the gaff went massively viral, of course.</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet"> <p lang="en" dir="ltr">We recognise people were offended by irresponsible &amp; offensive posts &amp; we apologise. We are equally upset &amp; have shut the activity down.</p> — Walkers Crisps (@walkers_crisps) <a href="https://twitter.com/walkers_crisps/status/867794946954149888">May 25, 2017</a> </blockquote> <p>But did it take the best course of action - and has it damaged the brand? </p> <p>It’s hard to feel too much outrage at this example, especially considering the crisis arose out of the mischievous behaviour of Twitter users – not a deliberate move on Walkers’ part. Most of the reaction on Twitter has also been sheer disbelief at how the brand failed to see such an obvious flaw in its campaign, rather than offence at the tweets themselves.</p> <p>Walker’s obviously wanted to brush it under the carpet as quickly as possible (out of sheer embarrassment more than anything else), hence the short and swift apology. Sometimes, this is enough to bury a crisis, resulting in nothing more than a place in the list of some of the biggest Twitter backfires of all time.</p> <p>In order to prevent the situation, Walkers should have been much more thorough in its planning of the campaign, recognising the potential pitfalls of automation. While this example is far less extreme than other instances where the computer takes control - such as Microsoft's chatbot, Tay, which learnt racist and sexist terms from users - it still demonstrates the danger of automated social campaigns, and what happens when there is no real-time monitoring sytem in place.</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet"> <p lang="en" dir="ltr">Walkers: Let's run a promotion where people can send in selfies to win match tickets.</p> <p>Brilliant! How can it fail? <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/WalkersWave?src=hash">#WalkersWave</a> <a href="https://t.co/7bQlj1zIWC">pic.twitter.com/7bQlj1zIWC</a></p> — Ben (@Jamin2g) <a href="https://twitter.com/Jamin2g/status/867774880594489344">May 25, 2017</a> </blockquote> <h3>Taco Bell</h3> <p>Sometimes, a crisis can occur out of nowhere. In the case of Taco Bell, it happened due to accusations of wrong-doing from just one individual.</p> <p>The fast food chain was sued in 2011 for allegedly using just 35% beef in its meat, with the claim suggesting that the remaining 65% contained water, wheat oats, maltodrextrin, and other ‘fake’ ingredients. This then led to the story being widely shared and talked about on social.</p> <p>Despite a number of media outlets also covering the story, Taco Bell did not merely rush to publish a statement counteracting the claim. Of course, it denied it. But then it also launched an entire advertising campaign based around it, posting videos on Facebook and YouTube of President Greg Creed talking about the correct ingredients of its products.</p> <p>It also created print ads to educate consumers about Taco Bell recipes, even going so far as thanking the person who sued the company for giving it the opportunity to do so.</p> <p><img src="https://assets.econsultancy.com/images/0008/6579/taco_bell.JPG" alt="" width="400" height="778"></p> <p>Though this example is more of a brand crisis than a social media one, it still demonstrates how social channels can be harnessed to turn around perceptions.</p> <p>By focusing efforts on marketing via channels like Facebook and Twitter, the brand effectively reached and engaged customers, resulting in a swell of comments in support of Taco Bell’s campaign. This shows that effective social media crisis management is not just about how to respond in the short-term, but finding ways to recover reputation long after the incident has occured.</p> <p><iframe src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/ah05FEWcJWM?wmode=transparent" width="854" height="480"></iframe></p> <h3>What can we learn?</h3> <p>With users increasingly looking to social media channels like Twitter for real-time updates and information, it’s not only a huge opportunity for brands to quash controversy before it catches on – but to impress consumers with <em>how</em> it does so. </p> <p>Regardless of the size of the crisis, it’s clear from the aforementioned examples that a swift, honest, and measured response to any issue on social media is always the best plan of action. Alongside this, it is important for brands to set up clear guidelines in relation to identifying and managing crises, determining who is responsible and for what, as well as how to manage approval processes and resourcing. </p> <p>As KLM and Taco Bell particularly show (and from which BA should take heed), it also a real understanding of the medium – and what users want from it – that can ultimately turn a crisis around. </p> <p><em><strong>Related reading:</strong></em></p> <ul> <li><em><a href="https://econsultancy.com/blog/68546-social-media-customer-service-six-important-talking-points/" target="_blank">Social media customer service: Six important talking points</a></em></li> <li><em><a href="https://econsultancy.com/blog/65478-how-20-top-uk-retailers-handle-social-customer-service/" target="_blank">How 20 top UK retailers handle social customer service</a></em></li> <li><a href="https://econsultancy.com/blog/69128-seven-steps-for-managing-social-media-for-live-events/" target="_blank"><em>Seven steps for managing social media for liv</em>e<em> events</em></a></li> </ul> tag:econsultancy.com,2008:BlogPost/69116 2017-05-25T12:10:08+01:00 2017-05-25T12:10:08+01:00 How brands can navigate today's super-political environment Patricio Robles <p>Here are a number of tips for brands trying to figure out what to do and what not do.</p> <h3>Be very, very careful about jumping into politics and highly-charged social issues</h3> <p>Although a growing number of high-profile brands seem comfortable making political and social statements, this is arguably riskier than ever before. Consider the following two examples:</p> <ul> <li>In response to a law passed in North Carolina, retail giant Target announced a restroom policy that allows individuals to use the restroom of the gender they identify with. Target's move was intended to support members of the LGTB community, but the announcement sparked a backlash from consumers worried that the policy could, among other things, be taken advantage of by sexual predators. An online petition sponsored by the American Family Association calling for a boycott of Target has garnered more than 1.5m signatures.</li> <li>In response to US President Donald Trump's executive order temporarily halting US travel for individuals from several Muslim-majority nations, Starbucks issued a pledge that it would hire 10,000 refugees. Given the heated debate over President Trump's executive order, Starbucks' announcement not surprisingly also sparked calls for a boycott.</li> </ul> <p>What has happened since? It <a href="https://econsultancy.com/blog/68914-sentiment-analysis-how-consumers-feel-depends-on-who-you-ask/">depends on who you ask</a>.</p> <p>In Target's case, shopper traffic is down, sales have decreased by 6%, and same-store sales have fallen in every quarter since the boycott began. Not surprisingly, the American Family Association believes this is the result of the boycott, but Target disagrees.</p> <p>In Starbucks' case, market research firm YouGov <a href="https://today.yougov.com/news/2017/02/22/brands-and-politics-spotlight-starbucks/">says</a> that the company's brand perception plummeted following #BoycottStarbucks. Starbucks commissioned research of its own <a href="https://news.starbucks.com/news/starbucks-brand-equity">that concluded</a> there has been no impact, but with Starbucks seeing slower than expected same-store sales growth <a href="http://www.cnbc.com/2017/04/27/starbucks-reports-fiscal-second-quarter-earnings-.html">for the second quarter in a row</a>, there's room for speculation and debate.</p> <p>No matter what, neither company's politicking appears to have helped it, so the key takeaway is that there is probably little for brands to gain today by going out of their way to speak out about political and social topics on which reasonable, decent people can have very different opinions.</p> <p>The lack of potential for benefit appears to be confirmed by a recent survey <a href="http://www.adweek.com/brand-marketing/4as-survey-finds-more-risk-than-benefit-in-brands-tackling-political-and-social-issues/">conducted by</a> 4A’s and SSRS, which found that "consumers are not looking to brands to take a position on political or social issues" and "only a small percentage of consumers are moved to buy from positive messaging."</p> <h3>Focus on uncontroversial values and causes</h3> <p>One of the primary reasons brands are jumping into politics is that the people running them truly believe that there are politically-tinged issues that are too important not to weigh in on. Additionally, in some cases, they want to signal to their employees that they disagree with political policies that are controversial.</p> <p>But avoiding politics doesn't mean that brands have to embrace amorality. In fact, it's actually ill-advised for brands to pretend they don't have a conscience as numerous studies have shown that for many consumers, brand perception and purchase intent can be influenced by a company's CSR (corporate social responsibility) efforts.</p> <p>But instead of getting political or taking a side on highly-charged social issues, brands can demonstrate that they have a conscience by building their initiatives and marketing campaigns around core values and causes that just about everyone can get behind. There are plenty of examples of companies demonstrating their values by supporting causes that don't have lots of political baggage.</p> <p>For example, through its <a href="http://www.stellaartois.com/en_us/buy-a-lady-a-drink.html">Buy a Lady a Drink campaign</a>, brewer Stella Artois has given more than $1m to Water.org while raising awareness of the global water crisis and its impact on women around the world. And last year, Elsevier <a href="https://www.elsevier.com/about/press-releases/corporate-social-responsibility/elsevier-and-doctors-without-borders-partner-to-help-tackle-africas-health-challenges">announced</a> a partnership with Doctors without Borders "to cooperate in fighting the root causes of some of Africa's most vexing health challenges, including diarrhea and infectious diseases, which leave millions of people dying or severely diminished every year." As part of the partnership, Elsevier provided a $300,000 grant to Doctors without Borders' research and training division.</p> <p>While these initiatives are not directly tied to political and social topics that are in the news, they allow the brands behind them to demonstrate their values and commitment to causes that few people are likely to object to.</p> <h3>Trust your agencies, but understand that they might be biased</h3> <p>Most large brands work with agencies, which are tapped for their knowledge of consumers and their expertise in helping brands connect with consumers.</p> <p>But agencies are often home to bias, including <a href="https://digiday.com/marketing/like-ad-agency-republican-trump-era/">political bias</a>. This subject has been increasingly discussed in the wake of Donald Trump's election, as many agencyfolk openly supported his opponent, Hillary Clinton. With this in mind, <a href="https://www.forbes.com/sites/willburns/2016/11/22/can-liberal-leaning-ad-agencies-effectively-sell-to-conservative-consumers/">one observer asked</a>, "can liberal-leaning ad agencies effectively sell to conservative consumers?"</p> <p>It's a simple question, but not a trivial one. After all, if brands are relying on the advice and execution of agency partners that <a href="https://www.wsj.com/articles/advertisers-search-for-middle-america-1479687543">may have a difficult time connecting with consumers</a> who don't share the world view of the vast majority of their employees, brands risk adopting strategies and campaigns that, at best, won't resonate with a large portion of the consumer population and, at worst, could alienate huge numbers of consumers.</p> <h3>Seek out new perspectives</h3> <p>Bias is natural, and it isn't always inherently bad. It probably wouldn't be a good thing for agencies to always "play it safe" and become opinion-less organizations. But in today's challenging environment, brands shouldn't shrug their shoulders and pretend that the bias can't be a liability.</p> <p>No, this doesn't mean brands should, say, fire their agencies. But it does mean speaking up if and when their agency partners make strategic recommendations and present campaign concepts that are too political or based on <a href="http://adage.com/article/agency-viewpoint/14-heartland-stereotypes-stifling-brands/307055/">naive stereotypes about large swathes of the population</a>.</p> <p>Diversity of perspective is important and brands should ensure that they have access to voices, internal and external, who can credibly represent <em>all</em> the members of their customer base.</p> <h3>Don't step in it</h3> <p>While some brands are unlikely to stay out of the realm of politics and heated social issues, every brand should do whatever it takes to avoid major faux pas like the one Pepsi made last month when it unveiled an ad starring new spokesperson Kendall Jenner. In the ad, Jenner leaves a photo shoot to join a protest. She ends up facing off with a police officer, who she hands a can of Pepsi, prompting the officer to smile.</p> <p>The ad was seen by many as a tone-deaf attempt to co-opt the Black Lives Matter movement to sell soda and caused a huge backlash. Wired even <a href="https://www.wired.com/2017/04/pepsi-ad-internet-response/">declared</a> that it "was so awful it did the impossible: it united the internet." </p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet"> <p lang="en" dir="ltr">can you believe kendall jenner solved all the black lives matter issues by giving a pepsi to a cop? inspiring.</p> — Danii G (@gerbatron) <a href="https://twitter.com/gerbatron/status/849396830773415936">April 4, 2017</a> </blockquote> <p>According to Pepsi, the ad was intended to represent "people from different walks of life coming together in a spirit of harmony." But the concept was so poorly conceived and poorly timed that the company was forced to pull the ad and admit that it had missed the mark, something most experts suggest the company should have realized before the ad was even filmed.</p> tag:econsultancy.com,2008:BlogPost/68929 2017-05-16T10:00:00+01:00 2017-05-16T10:00:00+01:00 Digital crisis comms: How TfL's social media team copes with Tube strikes Nikki Gilliland <p>So spare a thought for Transport for London’s social media team, who see their daily tally of 2,500 Twitter mentions increase by a whopping 2,000% on a strike day.</p> <p>I recently spoke with TfL’s social media and content lead, Steven Gutierrez, to find out about the network’s approach to crisis communications, specifically when it comes to dealing with strikes. Here’s a summary of what he said, as well as a bit of further insight into the topic in general.</p> <h3>Multiple lines of communication</h3> <p>The <a href="http://managementhelp.org/blogs/crisis-management/2015/02/07/crisis-stats-you-should-remember/" target="_blank">OMD Group suggests</a> that just 54% of companies have a crisis plan in place. Unsurprisingly, it’s a necessity rather than an option for transport networks, with TfL taking steps to ensure there are multiple lines of communication open in the event of any planned or unplanned events.</p> <p>In total, TfL has 21 Twitter accounts, including individual accounts for Tube lines, rail lines, as well as dedicated channels for customer service such as <a href="https://twitter.com/TfLTravelAlerts" target="_blank">@TfLTravelAlerts</a> and <a href="https://twitter.com/TfLBusAlerts" target="_blank">@TfLBusAlerts</a>. </p> <p>Despite offering multiple ways for users to check the status of the network, however, Steven suggests that manpower is still pretty limited. </p> <p>TfL’s First Contact team is made up of just a few members of staff – an amount that stays roughly the same during strike days. Similarly, each bus or rail line is manned by one or two people, meaning that there are usually around half a dozen people dealing with a huge volume of queries. </p> <h3>Broadcasting info and prioritising mentions</h3> <p>So, just how does TfL cope with the 2,000% increase in mentions when there’s a strike?</p> <p>With such a massive influx, it’s impossible for the team to reply to questions individually. In order to cover all bases, TfL broadcasts an overview of information to followers via its social channels and links to the website with is kepy up to date with live information, with the aim of reaching customers before they feel the need to reach out to the network.</p> <p><img src="https://assets.econsultancy.com/images/0008/4966/TFL_mentions.JPG" alt="" width="760" height="244"></p> <p><em>TfL's brand mentions on Twitter</em></p> <p>While TfL might not answer every question, impressively every single mention is still checked by an agent. To streamline the process TfL’s social team uses a tool called CX Social, which is also used by O2 and McDonald’s.</p> <p>According to Steven: “It makes it possible to handle many accounts, collaborate and triage messages to the most relevant team. I don’t think we’re limited by any tech our teams are well equipped.”</p> <p>Of course, not only does this give the team insight into what kind of information customers are actively seeking out, but it also means TfL is privy to people’s anger and frustration, too.</p> <p>That being said, Steven suggests that the majority of feedback is based on customers needing information, meaning a relatively small amount is actually abusive. “Increasingly customers thank the social media team because I think some realise how hard it is to work through a strike!”</p> <p><img src="https://assets.econsultancy.com/images/0008/4967/Sentiment.JPG" alt="" width="760" height="304"></p> <p><em>Sentiment analysis of TfL brand mentions on Twitter</em></p> <p>Perhaps TfL’s commitment to communication is part of the reason why. In contrast, you’ve only got to look at an example like Southern Rail, which has come under fire for an inconsistent and incompetent approach to crisis communications.</p> <p>Even after it received complaints for a lack of visible compassion, Southern Rail angered commuters even further with its misjudged call to ‘strike back’ at RMT.</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet"> <p lang="en" dir="ltr">.<a href="https://twitter.com/SouthernRailUK">@SouthernRailUK</a> When people waited three hours at Brighton last night, was that because of strikes?</p> — Cr O'Grizimov (@Mr_Ogrizovic) <a href="https://twitter.com/Mr_Ogrizovic/status/782841247706873856">October 3, 2016</a> </blockquote> <h3>Reversing the message</h3> <p>As well as using broadcasts to pre-empt and stem the flow of incoming customer queries, TfL’s strategy for strike days is to reverse its working message. In other words, instead of telling customers what Tube lines are not working, it tries to tell them what ones are still running instead.</p> <p>Alongside this, it typically stops or reschedules any promotional campaigns in order to allow more pressing news to cut through.</p> <p>Together, this approach is effective for instilling trust and encouraging a positive mood, with TfL promoting the fact that it is working hard to help the customer – not pushing its own agenda.</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet"> <p lang="en" dir="ltr">A possible Tube strike will significantly affect services from Sun eve to Wed morning. Stay up to date here: <a href="https://t.co/9bQz35k9Xa">https://t.co/9bQz35k9Xa</a> <a href="https://t.co/DOKNlcdR0B">pic.twitter.com/DOKNlcdR0B</a></p> — TfL Travel Alerts (@TfLTravelAlerts) <a href="https://twitter.com/TfLTravelAlerts/status/827486881415839744">3 February 2017</a> </blockquote> <p>According to Steven, a strike isn’t necessarily the most stressful event that a transport network like TfL can encounter. With storms, flooding or snow having a massive impact on the running of Tube lines, winter is typically the most demanding season.</p> <p>Meanwhile, with unforeseen accidents often harder to deal with than planned strikes (such as the helicopter that crashed in Vauxhall a few years ago), the team is essentially on constant standby throughout the entire year.</p> <p>In order to deal with an unplanned event, TfL has a defined process in place:</p> <ul> <li>One of the first steps is usually an acknowledgement of the issue.</li> <li>The next step is to coordinate a response based on verified information.</li> <li>At the same time all unnecessary activity (promotions, advertising, etc) is stopped</li> <li>TfL’s main accounts including @TfL and the TfL Facebook will lead on news and customer service accounts like individual Tube lines will broadcast service updates.</li> <li>TfL’s website will usually carry a dedicated webpage with more detailed travel advice and the Press Office will provide updates to the media.</li> <li>TfL continues providing updates from all relevant accounts and update the website regularly until things go back to normal.</li> </ul> <h3>Maintaining a genuine tone of voice</h3> <p>During busy or stressful times, rushed responses could potentially mean <a href="https://econsultancy.com/blog/67268-how-to-achieve-the-right-tone-of-voice-for-your-brand/" target="_blank">brand tone of voice</a> goes out of the window.</p> <p>However, Steven emphasises that the network strives to maintain a genuine and friendly tone no matter what, with staff encouraged to be genuine and express themselves.</p> <p>He says that it helps that the majority of social media agents are part of the company's wider contact centre, meaning they also deal with calls, emails and letters as well as social media platforms. In turn, this encourages them to maintain a natural-sounding and friendly tone regardless of the channel.</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet"> <p lang="en" dir="ltr">Good afternoon all, Mark and Tariq are here to help. <a href="https://t.co/JfJ3ETqwIX">pic.twitter.com/JfJ3ETqwIX</a></p> — TfL Travel Alerts (@TfLTravelAlerts) <a href="https://twitter.com/TfLTravelAlerts/status/833702140300378117">20 February 2017</a> </blockquote> <p>While TfL clearly prioritises one-to-one human interaction, that doesn't mean it dismisses automation in all senses. Alongside automated ‘welcome’ messages on both Twitter and Facebook, TfL recently partnered with Twitter to offer a <a href="https://econsultancy.com/blog/68636-pizza-express-channel-4-and-tfl-three-examples-of-brand-chatbots/" target="_blank">chatbot ‘status checker</a>' that users can interact with via direct messages.</p> <p>Interestingly, Steven hints that it's not the only bot in the works. “We are developing chatbot experiences on other platforms... and our editors are working on the script to ensure it has a friendly tone of voice throughout.”</p> <p>However, TfL is likely to rely on its distinctly human approach a fair few more times in the future at least.</p> <p><strong><em>Now read:</em></strong></p> <ul> <li><em><a href="https://econsultancy.com/blog/68876-how-tfl-s-community-managers-engage-with-london-s-cyclists/" target="_blank">How TfL’s community managers engage with London’s cyclists</a></em></li> </ul> tag:econsultancy.com,2008:BlogPost/68865 2017-05-05T14:17:29+01:00 2017-05-05T14:17:29+01:00 Will bad PR lead Uber to destruction? Patricio Robles <p>Since the beginning of the year, the eight-year-old transportation company that investors have reportedly valued at more than $60bn has seen its name dragged through the mud:</p> <ul> <li>On February 19, a former Uber engineer, Susan Fowler, published <a href="https://www.susanjfowler.com/blog/2017/2/19/reflecting-on-one-very-strange-year-at-uber">a blog post</a> detailing a culture of sexism at the company, sparking outrage and forcing the company's founder and CEO, Travis Kalanick, to announce an independent review.</li> <li>Shortly thereafter, Uber's SVP of engineering, Amit Singhal, <a href="http://www.recode.net/2017/2/27/14745360/amit-singhal-google-uber">left the company</a> after it was revealed that he had left his former employer, Google, following an allegation of sexual harassment that the search giant had found to be "credible."</li> <li>Around the same time, a video recorded by an Uber driver revealed a conversation the driver had with Kalanick who, when pressed about driver pay, responded, "You know what, some people don't like to take responsibility for their own shit. They blame everything in their life on somebody else. Good luck!" Kalanick apologized for his behavior and <a href="https://newsroom.uber.com/a-profound-apology/">in a statement</a> said "This is the first time I’ve been willing to admit that I need leadership help and I intend to get it."</li> <li>In late February, Susan Fowler tweeted that "research for the smear campaign has begun. If you are contacted by anyone asking for personal and intimate info about me, please report asap" and shortly thereafter announced that she had hired a law firm. Uber <a href="http://www.recode.net/2017/2/24/14728660/uber-says-its-not-behind-the-phone-calls-to-investigate-susan-fowlers-personal-life">responded and stated</a> that it was not behind any investigations of Fowler's personal life.</li> <li>Google parent company Alphabet, on behalf of its self-driving car unit Waymo, <a href="https://medium.com/waymo/a-note-on-our-lawsuit-against-otto-and-uber-86f4f98902a1#.v5sjnsfbq">filed a lawsuit</a> against Uber and Otto alleging that former Waymo employees engaged in a "concerted plan to steal Waymo’s trade secrets and intellectual property." Otto is a self-driving car startup Uber purchased in 2016. That lawsuit <a href="https://techcrunch.com/2017/04/25/uber-must-turn-over-information-about-its-acquisition-of-otto-to-waymo-court-rules/">does not appear to be going well</a> for Uber and might be why the head of Uber's Advantage Technology Group, who is at the center of the lawsuit, just <a href="https://techcrunch.com/2017/04/27/ubers-anthony-levandowki-out-as-advanced-technologies-lead-amid-legal-fight/">stepped aside</a>.</li> <li>In early March, Uber was forced to respond to <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/03/technology/uber-greyball-program-evade-authorities.html">reports that it had built a "greyballing" system</a> so that it could evade law enforcement and regulators in markets where it was not permitted by law to operate.</li> <li>Also in early March, another former female Uber engineer <a href="https://medium.com/@contactkeala/sexism-at-uber-from-female-management-uberstory-238874075bbb">spoke out</a> about her last days at the company, which she claimed were filled with "disrespect, condescending managers, and sexism."</li> <li>Uber's president, Jeff Jones, who was previously the CMO of retail giant Target, resigned from the company after just six months on the job. Jones <a href="http://www.sfchronicle.com/business/article/Amid-turbulence-at-Uber-company-s-president-11013195.php">said that</a>, "The beliefs and approach to leadership that have guided my career are inconsistent with what I saw and experienced at Uber and I could no longer continue as president of the ridesharing business."</li> <li>In late March, <a href="http://www.theverge.com/2017/3/25/15061270/uber-employee-company-trip-south-korean-escort-bar">a report was published</a> claiming that Uber's Kalanick and five other employees visited an escort karaoke bar in Seoul, Korea in 2014, which resulted in a complaint to Uber human resources by a female employee who was present. According to the report, Kalanick's girlfriend was later asked by Uber’s senior VP of business to lie if questioned about the incident.</li> <li>Earlier this month, it <a href="https://www.theinformation.com/ubers-top-secret-hell-program-exploited-lyfts-vulnerability">was revealed</a> that between 2014 and early 2016 Uber had a software program called "Hell" which was used to track drivers driving for Lyft, the company's chief rival. As part of this program, which relied on fake Lyft rider accounts and a flaw in Lyft's technology, Uber tracked drivers who worked for both Uber and Lyft with the goal of luring them to work for Uber instead. Now, an ex-Lyft driver <a href="https://www.cnet.com/news/former-lyft-driver-sues-uber-for-hell-tracking-program/">is suing Uber for $5m</a> alleging that the program violated the Federal Wiretap Act and California's Invasion of Privacy Act. The lawyers representing the ex-Lyft driver are seeking class action status.</li> </ul> <p>Given Uber's ubiquity and dominance in key markets, one might assume that the company will no doubt weather all of these scandals with minimal long-term damage, but is that really a valid assumption?</p> <h3>Lyft pounces</h3> <p>If Lyft's fortunes are any indication, Uber might have reason to worry.</p> <p>While Uber has been dealing with bad headline after bad headline, Lyft has been courting riders and polishing its image. For example, when Uber was facing a #DeleteUber campaign over CEO Kalanick's participation in a business advisory council for US President Donald Trump, Lyft was responding to Trump's temporary travel ban targeting seven Muslim countries by announcing that it would be donating $1m to the American Civil Liberties Union.</p> <p>Is Lyft's cleaner image winning over consumers?</p> <p><a href="https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-04-27/lyft-bookings-and-ridership-soar-while-losses-shrink"> According to</a> Bloomberg, Lyft's ridership and bookings "surged" in the first quarter of the year and according to fundraising documents Bloomberg obtained, the company is beating its internal targets. The documents revealed that Lyft's gross bookings in Q1 grew to $800m, more than double what they were in Q1 2016, and total ridership in February was 137% higher than February 2016.</p> <p>Obviously, there's no way to know just how much of Lyft's gains, if any, have come at Uber's expense, but it's difficult to ignore the fact that Lyft's momentum seems to be accelerating at the very same time its larger rival is under constant media fire.</p> <h3>The big problem with Uber's bad PR</h3> <p>Many companies face scandal at some point or another, and Uber is no stranger to bad press. From reports that the company <a href="https://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2016/06/uber-hired-investigators-to-impersonate-journalists-to-target-lawsuit-plaintiff/">impersonated journalists</a> as part of a lawsuit reponse to <a href="http://bgr.com/2016/12/13/uber-privacy-and-security/">claims it has spied on users for years and lied about it</a>, Uber is at this point fairly well-versed in crisis PR. And on the surface, the company's response to the latest string of bad headlines has followed best practice.</p> <p>High-profile claims of a rampant sexual harassment? Denounce the behavior and announce an investigation to be led by the former US Attorney General. CEO gets caught on camera treating a driver poorly? Have the CEO issue a heartfelt apology and promise to get help. And so on and so forth.</p> <p>But something <em>feels</em> different about the latest crises. When the relatively new president of the company quits after only six months and points to the "beliefs and approach to leadership" as the reason, it suggests there's a bigger problem, as do the views of <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/mar/07/uber-work-culture-travis-kalanick-susan-fowler-controversy">current, former and prospective employees, as well as recruiters</a>.</p> <p>To be sure, companies <em>can</em> recover from <a href="https://econsultancy.com/blog/6119-bp-s-internet-response-the-good-the-bad-the-ugly/">huge mistakes that create PR messes of significant proportions</a>, but what happens when a brand burdens itself with a culture in which mistakes that wreak PR havoc are inevitable? And what happens if a company comes to be seen by the public as rotten at its core?</p> <p>While the thought of the $60bn-plus upstart imploding seems like a far-fetched proposition, Uber appears to be testing just how far the limits of bad PR can be pushed in a way that is perhaps unprecedented.</p> tag:econsultancy.com,2008:BlogPost/69007 2017-04-25T15:00:00+01:00 2017-04-25T15:00:00+01:00 Allergan Facebook initiative shows the risks of social media for pharma marketers Patricio Robles <p>For instance, patient testimonials posted on Facebook received "more than 3.5 million views, while the overall work generated 35 million impressions and resulted in a 10.5% lift in ad recall."</p> <p>But when looking at the <a href="https://www.facebook.com/RESTASIS/">Restasis Facebook Page</a>, I couldn't help but notice that many of the responses to the company's Facebook posts were complaints about cost.</p> <p>"Can not afford cost with savings card. Do you have any help. I am on social security," one person wrote. "Sad, my dad has severe dry eye and Restasis could certainly help, but he's got Medicare and can't afford it. Your savings program excludes Medicare recipients and he's got no other options," another wrote.</p> <p>The team managing the Restasis Facebook Page responded to these comments, in most cases apologizing for the situation and directing the individual to call a toll-free number or visit a page on which they can obtain information about a patient assistance program that they might be eligible for. But many consumers aren't eligible for patient assistance, leaving them out of luck.</p> <p><img src="https://assets.econsultancy.com/images/0008/5482/restasisfb.png" alt="" width="537" height="399"></p> <h4>Pharma almost always takes the blame</h4> <p>Allergan's team deserves credit for responding to comments complaining about cost and availability, but such comments also serve as a reminder of one of pharma's biggest challenges: even when it effectively markets its drugs directly to the consumers who need them, there's no guarantee that those consumers will be able to access them. </p> <p>On social media, consumers have a voice, and for an already <a href="https://econsultancy.com/blog/67747-pharma-marketers-should-use-storytelling-to-improve-the-industry-s-reputation">reputationally-challenged industry</a> grappling with outrage over drug prices, that means that social initiatives like Allergan's Restasis Facebook Page come with the risk of highlighting these issues, as consumers who find themselves unable to obtain the drugs they need have a platform for speaking out about their experiences.</p> <p>Of course, drug pricing and availability are complex issues and pharma companies aren't always responsible when consumers aren't able to obtain particular drugs. Healthcare providers and insurance companies play a big role in pricing and access. But because much of the frustration and outrage over these issues is frequently directed at pharma companies, they are most frequently the target of consumer complaints and that's bound to be true in social media.</p> <p>To be sure, the risk that consumers will post complaints about pricing and access on their social accounts doesn't mean that pharma marketers should avoid social channels, which are <a href="https://econsultancy.com/blog/67993-why-pharma-marketers-are-increasingly-turning-to-social-media">increasingly popular with pharma marketers</a> and have the potential to be <a href="https://econsultancy.com/blog/68846-three-effective-ways-pharma-brands-have-used-facebook-for-marketing">quite effective</a>. But as the Restasis Facebook Page demonstrates, pharma marketers should be prepared to deal with these when launching social initiatives. At a minimum, this includes being ready to field complaints, including those difficult ones related to cost and access.</p> tag:econsultancy.com,2008:BlogPost/69009 2017-04-20T11:31:51+01:00 2017-04-20T11:31:51+01:00 Can Wells Fargo's new brand platform help it restore consumer trust? Patricio Robles <p>Wells Fargo recently revealed that new checking account openings have dropped by 43% year-on-year and new credit card applications have plunged by an even greater amount – 55%.</p> <p>According to some observers, dealing with the fallout from this scandal represents perhaps the biggest challenge the bank has faced since it was founded in 1852. Ironically, the scandal could have been avoided if the company had heeded the advice of its largest shareholder, Warren Buffett. The legendary investor famously once stated, "It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you'll do things differently."</p> <p>Now faced with the task of rebuilding its reputation, Wells Fargo <a href="https://stories.wf.com/new-brand-platform-wells-fargo-building-better-company-every-day/">has unveiled</a> a new brand platform dubbed Building Better Every Day.</p> <p>According to Jamie Moldafsky, Wells Fargo's CMO, "Our research clearly shows our customers are ready to hear a different message from us, and the 'Building Better Every Day' platform behind this advertising came directly from the research results. In addition to showing our customers how we are building a better bank – fixing things, and making them right – this effort is focused on how we are helping customers achieve their financial goals."</p> <p>The Building Better Every Day platform will rely on marketing across virtually all channels, including digital, television, print, radio and billboard. It aims to highlight how Wells Fargo is helping customers through "customer-centric" technological innovation, guidance and personalized service, security and community involvement.</p> <p><iframe src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/WJGAO63-IKs?wmode=transparent" width="560" height="315"></iframe></p> <p>Phil Wang, a marketing manager who was involved in the platform's development, says that the ads will focus a lot on interactions between Wells Fargo and its customers. "Team members are front and center in these spots, and portrayed as helping customers in a way that's in keeping with our vision and values."</p> <p>To hammer home the bank's commitment to the diverse communities it has a presence in, Wells Fargo is even creating ads for specific audiences in other languages, including Mandarin, Cantonese and Spanish.</p> <h4>All of this sounds like a textbook plan from a marketing perspective, but will Wells Fargo's new brand platform really heal the damage caused by its scandal?</h4> <p>There are reasons to be skeptical because not only was the scandal itself really, really ugly in nature, the timing couldn't have been worse for the banking behemoth.</p> <p>First, big banks are among consumers' least favorite institutions today thanks in large part to the financial crisis of 2008, which was widely blamed on out-of-control financial institutions. While Wells Fargo had the most pristine reputation of any big bank following the crisis, having emerged from the Great Recession largely unscathed, the unauthorized account scandal plays right into Wall Street critics' argument that big banks are out of control and simply can't be trusted. </p> <p>Secondly, and perhaps more importantly, banks find themselves under attack from fintech startups that are attempting <a href="https://econsultancy.com/blog/68159-five-ways-fintech-upstarts-are-disrupting-established-financial-institutions/">to disrupt</a> their business models. From consumer, business and mortgage lending to brokerage services and everything in between, many of the financial services that consumers used to obtain from the bank where they kept their checking and savings accounts are increasingly acquired through standalone non-bank service providers in an unbundled fashion. By some estimates, this <a href="https://econsultancy.com/blog/68981-could-established-financial-services-firms-lose-a-quarter-of-their-revenue-to-fintechs/">could soon cost established financial institutions a quarter of their revenue</a>.</p> <p>In fact, that Wells Fargo employees were opening unauthorized accounts to meet aggressive sales quotas hints that it is increasingly difficult for banks to successfully cross-sell to their customers <a href="https://econsultancy.com/blog/68334-wells-fargo-scandal-shows-why-banks-are-vulnerable-to-fintech-startups/">in the age of unbundling</a>. </p> <p>Unfortunately for Wells Fargo, the damage caused by the actions of thousands of its employees probably won't be undone with a new brand platform and an aggressive and expensive marketing campaign. While it's not too soon for the bank to start employing marketing in an effort to re-engage consumers, ultimately Wells Fargo will probably have to accept that the old Buffett nugget of wisdom is pretty accurate.</p> tag:econsultancy.com,2008:BlogPost/68978 2017-04-13T01:00:00+01:00 2017-04-13T01:00:00+01:00 Three brands recently 'shamed' in China and how others can avoid a similar fate Jeff Rajeck <p>Last August, <a href="https://econsultancy.com/blog/68232-china-introduces-far-reaching-new-internet-ad-law-why-it-matters/">Econsultancy warned brands advertising in China</a> to become familiar with new advertising legislation in the country.</p> <p>In particular, they needed to know that <strong>the Chinese State Administration for Industry and Commerce is looking for exaggerations and falsehoods in ads</strong>, especially for companies that sell health-related or financial products.</p> <p>Brands in China should also be aware of the TV show known as '315' which names and shames firms on national television for stretching the truth, including large brands such as Apple and Volkswagen in previous years.</p> <p><img src="https://assets.econsultancy.com/images/0008/5330/1.jpg" alt="" width="800" height="450"></p> <p>Here are the stories of three companies that fell foul of the examiners in March of this year and what other brands can do to avoid the same thing happening to them.</p> <h3>1. Blackmores (Australia)</h3> <p>Blackmores is a manufacturer and distributer of vitamins, minerals, and nutritional supplements. <strong>It has also had enormous success in China with double-digit growth over the past two years</strong> and sales of over A$100m in 2016.</p> <p><img src="https://assets.econsultancy.com/images/0008/5332/3.jpg" alt="" width="800" height="440"></p> <p>One <a href="http://readysetgochina.com.au/blackmores-success-hiccups-with-china-the-real-reason/">overview of the brand's strategy</a> in the country says that Blackmores has been successful in China because of its strategy on China's biggest social chat platform, WeChat.</p> <p>Yet it seems that WeChat was also the cause of the brand's recent shaming.</p> <p><a href="http://www.theaustralian.com.au/business/companies/blackmores-fined-65000-in-china-for-false-claims/news-story/200cac6b72cf60609d80e3754a01a9de">According to the Shanghai Administration for Industry and Commerce</a>, the company's advertising on WeChat claimed that its products could 'prevent and cure cardiovascular and cerebrovascular diseases and arthritis'. Additionally, the bureau noted that Blackmores made an unsupported claim to be "the No 1 Australian nutritious product brand." </p> <p>As a result of violating the new advertising laws, <strong>the firm was fined RMB346,600 (around US$50,000) and consumers were entitled to claim three times the price they paid for comparative products as compensation.</strong></p> <p>If the brand or its agency had reviewed the law before advertising, it would have read that <a href="http://hk.lexiscn.com/law/interim-measures-for-the-administration-of-internet-advertising.html">Article 6 bans the advertisement of medical treatments unless it has been examined by the 'advertising examination authority'</a>.</p> <p>While the law does not indicate how to seek approval, brands should learn from this incident and seek legal advice before advertising products with health benefits or medical treatments and ensure they are not violating current legislation.</p> <h3>2. Nike (USA)</h3> <p>Like in the rest of the world, Nike is a very popular footwear brand in China and more that 10% of the brand's global sales are in the country.</p> <p>Recently, though, the TV show '315' (so named because March 15th is World Consumer Rights Day) found that 300 of its Hyperdunk sneakers were advertised as having 'Zoom Air' airbags. Yet when the shoes were cut open, <strong>no 'airbags' were found. </strong>315 proceeded to name and shame Nike on its most recent programme.</p> <p><img src="https://assets.econsultancy.com/images/0008/5331/2.jpg" alt="" width="800" height="500"></p> <p>According to industry experts, it's unlikely that there will be any legal implications due to this error. Nike has, however, <a href="http://www.campaignasia.com/article/nike-muji-targeted-in-china-consumer-rights-expose/434712">admitted fault</a> and "will fully cooperate with the government regulators regarding their inquiries." When asked about the gravity of the incident, the CEO of H+K Strategies in China said that "the damage is more to [Nike's] public image."</p> <p>So what can brands do to avoid a similar situation?</p> <p>While it is highly unlikely that a brand the size of Nike's could ever ensure that 100% of its products were absolutely to the advertised standard, other brands can still learn from the experience.</p> <p>First off, <strong>marketers should note how far '315' will go in order to challenge a claim made in an ad</strong> and so they should be careful about making grandiose statements.</p> <p>Other <strong>brands should also learn from how Nike handled this issue.</strong> It was clear that Nike had a PR response ready to go and did not dig the brand in deeper by hesitating or trying to explain it away. The truth may hurt, but it's best to suffer it quickly rather than letting it get out of hand.</p> <h3>3. Muji (Japan)</h3> <p>Muji, the Japanese household items, stationery, and apparel brand, was also shamed on the most recent broadcast of the consumer watch show '315'. The company was accused of importing food into China from an area of Tokyo where high levels of radiation were detected in 2015.</p> <p><strong><img src="https://assets.econsultancy.com/images/0008/5333/4.jpg" alt="" width="800" height="400"></strong></p> <p>Unlike Nike, Muji's parent company Ryohin Keikaku quickly announced that <a href="https://www.ft.com/content/076736c8-0d42-11e7-b030-768954394623">the firm was not selling products in China from any areas affected by radiation.</a> This claim was subsequently confirmed by the Financial Times who backed up the claim that <strong>the address in question was the food company's headquarters, not where the food was grown.</strong></p> <p>Again, there is little that Muji could have done to avoid the accusation as memories of nuclear contamination from the Fukushima disaster are still very clear in consumers' minds. </p> <p><strong>The lesson from this episode is that Chinese consumers are very sensitive to food safety issues.</strong> There are numerous cultural reasons for this but another important factor is that, in 2008, <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2008_Chinese_milk_scandal">six infants died from infant formula which was intentionally tampered with</a> and at least another 50,000 were hospitalized.  </p> <p>After such a scare, it is unsurprising that food safety is still of great concern in the country and so <strong>any brand that sells food in any capacity needs to be extra careful about the quality and safety of their product.</strong></p> <p>Muji will probably suffer unnecessarily from the accusations but, again, it was smart to address the issue head on through rapid crisis response.</p> <h3>So...</h3> <p>China and its billion or so consumers are a tempting target for many Western brands. In order to become and remain successful, though, <strong>companies need to understand the many quirks of the markets and to be prepared to manage the fallout if they make a mistake. </strong></p> <p>For most brands, this will mean working with a local partner who will ensure that the company doesn't commit any egregious mistakes but <strong>brand marketers should also become familiar with the law and institutions such as the '315' TV programme as well.</strong></p> <p>Doing so will hopefully keep their company from 'losing face' in the country and a subsequent humiliation, and expensive, retreat.</p> tag:econsultancy.com,2008:BlogPost/68980 2017-04-10T15:00:00+01:00 2017-04-10T15:00:00+01:00 Digital advertising is totally out of control Patricio Robles <p>In the past several weeks, major advertisers and ad agenices have pulled ads from Google and YouTube <a href="http://fortune.com/2017/03/27/google-youtube-ad-boycott/">in a boycott</a> that was sparked by a Times investigation which found that ads from prominent brands were being displayed alongside extremist content. By some estimates, the boycott could cost Google hundreds of millions of dollars this year alone.</p> <p>In response, Google has promised change, but the truth of the matter is that the problem appears to be even larger than estimated, as practically everywhere observers look, they are finding examples of offensive content being used to serve ads from major brands.</p> <p>Heat Street, for instance, <a href="https://heatst.com/tech/many-popular-youtube-toy-channels-for-kids-contain-bizarre-graphic-poop-videos/">has detailed</a> how popular toy channels on YouTube targeting parents and children, some with millions of subscribers, are home to bizarre "poop" videos. "The videos feature children, some as old as 10, playing with fake human excrement-sometimes even eating it. Often these videos will wrack up exponentially more views than straight toy videos on the channel," it writes.</p> <p><img src="https://assets.econsultancy.com/images/0008/5338/weirdyoutubevideo.jpg" alt="" width="619" height="379"></p> <p>One disturbing video published on a YouTube channel with 4.5 million subscribers and run by a family that has had a book published by Hachette "shows two young girls who appear to mock defecate in a toilet and smear themselves in fake poop. One of the girls even throws a realistic-looking stool at the other girl, who catches it and then drops it on the floor."</p> <p>Another channel features even more bizarre and disturbing content, such as a video with the title "POOP EXPLOSION Silicone Baby Doll Poops and Pees Diaper Change Poop Drink and Wet Feeding Baby Video." The channel is run by a school teacher who says she's now making so much money from YouTube that she has stopped making toy dolls, ostensibly to focus on her videos.</p> <p><strong>That money frequently comes from brand advertisers whose ads are displayed with this content.</strong></p> <p>It's not that advertisers are intending to be a piggy bank for YouTubers who produce bizarre poop videos. When Heat Street reached out to Dell and Citibank, whose ads were displayed on some of the disturbing videos it identified in its investigation, Dell explained that it "works with our media partners to indicate what types of sites we'd like to be associated with and which sites to block. Unfortunately these sites are proliferating at an accelerated rate and often slip through the cracks." </p> <p>Citibank offered a slightly different spin, telling Heat Street, "We have a number of policies and procedures in place for our vendors designed to help prevent our advertising from appearing in connection with inappropriate content. In the rare event that an ad appears on a site with inappropriate or offensive content, we demand its immediate removal."</p> <p><strong>The problem for advertisers is that incidences of their ads being displayed with questionable content are anything but "rare."</strong> On platforms like YouTube, it doesn't take much time to find ads appearing with videos that are offensive by any reasonable measure. </p> <p>Take, for example, the countless "prank" videos that have proliferated on Google's crown jewel of video. Many contain content that is objectively violent, sexual, degrading, racist, sexist or just downright disgusting. No brand would reasonably consider this content "brand safe," but that doesn't mean their ads aren't being displayed with it.</p> <p>Unfortunately, while there are almost certainly steps Google and advertisers can take to deal with some of the most egregious examples of brand-unsafe content, there is a more fundamental problem: the incentives for advertisers and content creators in the digital ad market are totally perverse.</p> <p>Whether the industry wants to accept it or not, the digital advertising market is currently in a race to the bottom. Content creators are going to extremes, literally and figuratively, to create content that captures eyeballs because...wait for it...advertisers want eyeballs.</p> <p>To its credit, Google has started to take action. For example, YouTube last week <a href="https://youtube-creators.googleblog.com/2017/04/introducing-expanded-youtube-partner.html">announced</a> that it will now require content creators to rack up 10,000 views on their channels before those channels can participate in YouTube's partner program, which allows content creators to monetize their videos. But while that will likely help protect content creators from impersonators who steal their content, it's not clear that it will do much to improve the overall YouTube advertising ecosystem. After all, as Heat Street's investigation demonstrated, there are content creators whose videos have generated far more than 10,000 views publishing content that no brand advertiser would see value in.</p> <p>At the end of the day, unless and until advertisers reign in their unhealthy thirst for reach and efficiency at all costs and start <em>forcing</em> content creators and ad platforms to do better, the digital advertising market will continue to be the source of an unpleasant stench and brands will increasingly find that they are on the receiving end of the complaints about it.</p> <p>Fortunately, <a href="https://econsultancy.com/blog/68259-are-online-advertisers-wising-up-about-content-quality/">advertisers seem to be wising up about content quality</a> and the YouTube boycott suggests that advertisers may have finally reached a breaking point. But if they expect meaningful change, they will need to continue to put pressure on content creators and digital ad giants like Google because the out of control situation will not be fixed in a matter of weeks or even months.</p> <p><em><strong>Related reading:</strong></em></p> <ul> <li><a href="https://econsultancy.com/blog/68650-the-future-of-programmatic-2017-and-beyond/">The future of programmatic: 2017 and beyond</a></li> </ul> tag:econsultancy.com,2008:BlogPost/68944 2017-03-30T13:55:00+01:00 2017-03-30T13:55:00+01:00 United shows how brands can stand up to social media mobs Patricio Robles <p>The incident was witnessed by Shannon Watts, who posted about it on her Twitter account, which has more than 34,000 followers. "Since when does @united police women's clothing?" she asked.</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet"> <p lang="en" dir="ltr">2) She's forcing them to change or put dresses on over leggings or they can't board. Since when does <a href="https://twitter.com/united">@united</a> police women's clothing?</p> — Shannon Watts (@shannonrwatts) <a href="https://twitter.com/shannonrwatts/status/845993122186211332">March 26, 2017</a> </blockquote> <p>Watts' tweets sparked a firestorm on Twitter that even caught the attention of numerous celebrities who collectively have millions of followers. They too jumped into the fray, criticizing the airline.</p> <blockquote class="twitter-tweet"> <p lang="en" dir="ltr">Hey <a href="https://twitter.com/united">@united</a> I fly a LOT. About to go on tour all April and changing all my <a href="https://twitter.com/united">@united</a> flights to other airlines</p> — Sarah Silverman (@SarahKSilverman) <a href="https://twitter.com/SarahKSilverman/status/846081905711710209">March 26, 2017</a> </blockquote> <p>While some headlines suggested that United was engaging in sexism and arbitrary foolishness, there was actually a less nefarious explanation for what happened: the passengers who were denied boarding were "pass riders" and subject to a different dress code than regular fliers.</p> <p>Pass travel is a perk given to airline employees, which can also be extended to friends and family, and it offers travel at no cost or a heavily discounted cost. Pass riders are considered to be representing United when they fly and thus they are subject to the dress code.</p> <p>United's dress code for pass riders explicitly states that certain clothing is not permitted. This includes "form-fitting lycra/spandex tops, pants and dresses."</p> <h3>Outrage on demand</h3> <p>United's legging incident demonstrates the fact that social media can be a source of outrage on demand. In an instant, and with little more than a tweet or two, brands can find themselves under attack from trigger-happy individuals all too eager to rail against a company regardless of whether or not they have accurate information or all of the facts.</p> <p>While reasonable people might suggest that United's dress code should be revisited, and less reasonable people will argue that companies shouldn't be able to implement a dress code at all, the truth is that many companies have dress codes and most are sensible and appropriate to the line of business the companies operate in.</p> <p>As pass travel is a benefit offered to airline employees, it's not unreasonable for United and other airlines to hold their pass riders to a different standard than paying customers, who can of course wear leggings if they so desire. As one individual who flew as part of a similar program <a href="http://www.cnn.com/2017/03/27/opinions/united-airlines-leggings-opinion-cevallos/">noted</a>, United's dress code is less stringent than the "business casual" dress code that many employers enforce.</p> <h3>Sometimes doing the right thing isn't easy or popular</h3> <p>Since the full and accurate context around the leggings incident has became known, more observers are acknowledging that this was a scandal that wasn't. And given the facts, United probably won't suffer any lasting damage from this incident, which explains why the company is sticking to its guns. Instead of apologizing, United has taken the time to explain its position.</p> <p>If there's one thing United could have improved, it might have been the speed at which it responded to this incident. While the airline quickly responded to Shannon Watts' tweets, as the backlash grew the company might have been wise to even more quickly post and link to <a href="https://hub.united.com/our-customers-leggings-are-welcome-2331263786.html">a statement on its website</a> better explaining the specifics of the situation, because 140 characters isn't always sufficient for providing a detailed response. </p> <p><strong>But otherwise, United's overall handling of this incident is a great case study demonstrating that companies don't have to give in to social media mobs when they have a leg to stand on.</strong></p> <p>Apology for apology's sake might be expedient when facing a social media backlash, but brands shouldn't be afraid to demonstrate some backbone when they're upholding their values, enforcing their established policies that have been applied consistently and fairly, or disputing inaccurate claims.</p>