Monday, August 30, 2010

Transparency and Digital Reputations

Marketing has been on fast-forward for some time--but social media is forcing companies to pick up the pace or be seen as less than transparent. Take recalls, for instance. Today's Ad Age reports that Toyota, J&J, and other companies may be announcing recalls more quickly than in the past because they don't want to hurt their digital reputations. It's just too easy for negative info to spread worldwide via the blogosphere or tweetosphere.

Announcements about product or packaging changes also have to be super-speedy. Early this year, after P&G developed a new "Dry Max" Pampers diaper, it put the new product in existing Pampers Cruisers packaging just until the rollout campaign could get underway. However, P&G didn't let Cruisers customers know about the change. Many Cruisers customers vented their displeasure online even before P&G's introductory campaign began--not the best way to lay the groundwork for a new product.

Showing that the firm both listens and responds will go a long way toward repairing customer relationships. Tropicana reversed course on new packaging for its orange juice last year after receiving a tsunami of negative customer reactions, via the Internet as well as through traditional feedback mechanisms. “You write an e-mail and in an hour, you’ve got a fan base agreeing with you,” a PR executive told the New York Times, explaining the speed at which customer reaction can spread. When the president of Tropicana North America announced the return of the original packaging, he said: “Those consumers are very important to us, so we responded.” Quickly.

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