Managing a Green, Social Brand

Once upon a time, Brand management meant quality product, clever ad art, and stellar customer service. Now, one decade into the 21st century, marketers have to tussle with social networking, and green responsibility in addition to coherent Branding across web, print, radio, and television.

Even though new media isn’t so new, companies still struggle with how to manage a viral Brand campaign in an environment that is both international and completely uncontrollable. Social networking happens real-time and when it works well, it gives a Brand a near instant viral boost. But when it comes under attack, or fails, it can bring near instant disaster. Such an environment needs both a solid plan, and a spirit that everyone in the company can adhere to when rapid response becomes necessary.

For instance, Nestlé has been under pressure from Greenpeace for a number of years for its use of palm oil (the creation of palm oil is blamed for deforestation). Most companies have plans in place to manage stray complaints or localized problems, but what happens when a Brand comes under attack from organized and passionate opposition? Damage control.

Greenpeace launched a concerted campaign on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, encouraging a boycott of Nestlé products until the company stops using palm oil. Provocative videos, as well as modified Nestlé logos quickly spread around the Internet. Nestlé’s first response was to try and censor the videos and logos citing copyright infringement. When Greenpeace supporters took the fight directly to Nestlé’s Facebook fan page (complete with altered logos), Nestlé responded by deleting the posts. This quickly back-fired, by giving Greenpeace a lot of free advertising and bringing the campaign into the spotlight.

Any posts in support of Nestlé were quickly drown out in the outrage, as were many of Nestlé’s attempts to refute Greenpeace accusations.

There are a number of lessons to be learned. A primary lesson is that as much as companies would like to think that they can “plan for the unexpected,” relying on the impossible gives a company a false sense of security and often leaves them open to being blind-sided. No one can plan for the unexpected.

There is no doubt that Nestlé has a thoroughly thought-out plan for dealing with negative press. The problem is that they relied on the plan when they needed to adapt.

One thing is certain: the Internet and Social Networking change directions faster than hummingbirds, and Brands need to be nimble to keep up. Advanced planning is not enough. What’s more important is that there be a designated hierarchy of decision makers, trusted to deal with unexpected events. Having a reliable expert to outsource to or call upon for advice can greatly assist in times of difficulties. Social Networking experts have experience dealing with the medium and can advise on which things can be ignored, which things demand attention, and what kind of attention they require.

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This entry was posted by on Tuesday, March 23, 2010.
Filed under: Articles, Marketing
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