Category Archives: public relations

Nestle’s Facebook meltdown


Oops. Nestle, or whoever runs their Facebook fan page, stepped on a social media landmine this weekend with this update:

Nestle: To repeat: we welcome your comments, but please don’t post using an altered version of any of our logos as your profile pic – they will be deleted. Fri at 2:26am

Nestle received 190 complaints within 24 hours on Facebook, and thousands of tweets reaching hundreds of thousands of consumers. You see, the surest way to tick off users of social media is to delete their comments. Yes, by the old standards of 20th century law, brands have a right to protect their intellectual property. But social media comprises fluid networks of users sharing and retweeting and mashing up material. Brands no longer command media channels or the spread of memes; if you want to win, you have to give users room to play.

Here are highlights from how it played out:

Paul Griffin: Not sure you’re going to win friends in the social media space with this sort of dogmatic approach. I understand that you’re on your back-foot due to various issues not excluding Palm Oil but Social Media is about embracing your market, engaging and having a conversation rather than preaching! Read www.cluetrain.com and rethink! Fri at 2:51am

Nestle: Thanks for the lesson in manners. Consider yourself embraced. But it’s our page, we set the rules, it was ever thus. Fri at 2:53am

Paul Griffin: Your page, your rules, true, and you just lost a customer, won the battle and lost the war! Happy? Fri at 2:56am

Nestle: Oh please .. it’s like we’re censoring everything to allow only positive comments. Fri at 2:58am

Darren Smith: Honey you need new PR Fri at 3:20am

Jagos Golubovic: I was a big fan of your products, but now, when I saw what you guys wrote, I think I’m gonna stop buying them. Fri at 3:55am

Helen Constable: I’d like to know if the person writing the comments for Nestle, actually has the backing from Nestle? I doubt it. Even a dumb ass company like them would get such an idiot to be their public voice. Fri at 4:10am

Nestle: I think you missed out the ‘not’ there, Helen Fri at 4:12am

Hyra Zaka: is a nestle rep running this page????? Fri at 4:39am

Nestle: We welcome debate, @Hyra – from any opinion. It helps us to know what people think and feel. Fri at 4:44am

ymann Lee: WFT !!!! This firm is a ugly creep !! trafficking and now censorship of my personal life. it seems pretty nazi !! Fri at 5:19am

Fernanda Shirakawa: I’m not using your logo… Fri at 5:55am

Fernanda Shirakawa: You deleted my comment anyway… Fri at 5:57am

Damien DeBarra: What a total train wreck. Sorry Nestle, but you really don’t seem to get it do you? Social media provides you with an opportunity to engage with your customers – to listen to them, to show that you actually care about ethical issues in business. Sadly it seems you have precisely the opposite attitude and seem determined to be as aggressive, patronising and corporatist as you can. And practically guaranteed that folks will now start shunning your products. Fri at 8:00am

Mark Watts-Jones: Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. Case study in how not to engage with your customers. We’ll await the inevitable apology and climb down. Fri at 11:06am

Nestle: This (deleting logos) was one in a series of mistakes for which I would like to apologise. And for being rude. We’ve stopped deleting posts, and I have stopped being rude. Fri at 1:29pm

(Update: The prelude to all this was a coordinated Greenpeace attack on Nestle’s Facebook page, which helps explain why the FB community manager was defensive; Jeremiah Owyang has a summary here.)

The manification of Toyota


It’s a shame Toyota is getting drawn and quartered over its stuck-pedals-or-sliding-brakes complaints because we’ve been admiring its new campaign for the revised Sienna minivan. Minivans, as you know, are the Great Compromise of automobile purchases, the harbinger of mid-life crises, the acknowledgement that a man has moved beyond the age of hot dating to P-whipped marriage to schlepping children with sippy cups to the local park and you better stop fighting in the back seat or no TV for a week! dialogue. You don’t have to put on the red dress tonight, Roxanne, because you won’t be caught dead with a guy in an egg-shaped hunk of sheet metal.

Toyota’s redrawn 2010 Sienna steps away from prior feminine-hygiene-packaging allusions. Sure, it is nowhere near as manly as Ford’s Flex — which hides its vanness with a Mini-on-steroids facade and a grill fresh off a Mach 3 razorblade — but from ads to brochures, Toyota is crowing this is a minivan that dads can drive. The Sienna’s top designer allegedly loves sports cars; the SE model option includes a dropped suspension and aggressive tuning; the dashboard has a Nike-inspired swoosh inlay either in wood or some fake form of carbon fiber (the swoop is actually a psychological device to give both front-seat passengers the illusion that they own 60% of the forward visual space). And banner ads online, which retarget you aggressively if you visit Toyota.com, proclaim “Daddy Likes.”

It’s a clever combination of product design and ad communications to appeal to two demos at the same time, men and women — and in a recession, both males and females in a household have to agree before shelling out $30k for a family bus. Toyota is obviously pushing the van because it is one of the few models not involved in its current massive recalls. If Toyota can put the brakes on consumers’ safety concerns, sales may suddenly accelerate.

London Underground: To save your rep, you have 4 hours

When Jonathan MacDonald saw a London Underground worker yelling at an elderly man, he whipped out a video camera, posted the clip via Twitter, and within 24 hours the story had made page 1 of London’s Evening Standard. No fists flew, only words, but if you read MacDonald’s blog post you realize the senior citizen was being abused for having his arm caught a few seconds earlier in a train door — a nice, bile-filled moment for London Underground customer service. The transit worker named Ian, at the end of the clip, shouts “sling him under a train.”

The faster the rise, the steeper the fall

What’s intriguing about such viral phenomena is the front end of the public interest curve matches the back — meaning the faster the spike, the less time you have to react. And things will spike; millions of consumers are now walking around your organization’s touchpoints armed with tiny video cameras. Dirk Singer of London PR shop Cow notes that today, when bad PR strikes, “you have 48 hours to restore your credibility as after that people generally won’t visit your website to get your point of view.” The balloon boy story of this week is another perfect example. On Thursday this week we drove to Boston for a client meeting and, within the space of 6 hours offline, had missed the entire story of a young boy apparently floating through the air at 7,000 feet in a rickety, homemade balloon contraption. Here’s what public interest looked like on Twitter:


See the challenge? Huge spike at first — by 6 p.m. the day the story broke, balloon boy had peaked at 2.51% of all tweets. Yet by 10 a.m. the next morning, interest had collapsed. If that tale had been your brand, and not a young boy potentially falling out of a weather balloon, would you be able to react in time? If the story broke within social media and not on CNN, would you even notice?

Getting your arms around such chatter isn’t expensive. Here’s a list of 34 free (and 60 some-odd paid) social media monitoring tools to get started. Beyond such tools, you’ll also need to restructure old PR processes to allow your organization to react. There’s no time to craft press releases and run them through legal. You can’t wait to schedule a meeting with the head of HR. So what is your plan? Start listening and planning your response, because like a Mylar balloon over Colorado, what goes up soon comes down.

What the AT&T apology means for the iPhone

Last spring at the annual South by Southwest Interactive conference in Texas, Guy Kawasaki had just started to interview Chris Anderson on stage when a cell phone went off in the audience. “It can’t by AT&T,” Guy cracked, “because they have no coverage in Austin.”

AT&T has gained notoriety as a spotty network, and so has launched an apology campaign with “Seth the Blogger.” The videos have in turn caused a little controversy, since Seth is really Seth Bloom, a senior vice president at Fleishman-Hillard, AT&T’s PR agency, and not a techie blogger. (Unpaid bloggers get upset when paid professionals impersonate them. No matter.) We think Fleishman-Hillard struck the right tone and got the message out, namely that the iPhone is a data-guzzling beast and keeping up with it requires significant investment in infrastructure.

iPhone over?

The real story here is the glow may be fading from the iPhone’s design beauty. The iPhone gave AT&T huge momentum — AT&T, the sole carrier of the Apple phone, shot from 70 million to 77 million wireless customers in 2008, and ended the year as the United States’ largest mobile provider. Margins have grown fatter too: AT&T’s wireless segment operating income margin ballooned from 12.2% in 2006 to 22.5% in 2008, driven largely by increased data usage from iPhones. But as glass pads with apps become a low-cost commodity, AT&T may lose its Steve Jobs advantage. AT&T notes in its last annual report “we have three to four other wireless competitors in each of our service areas and compete for customers based principally on price, service/device offerings, call quality, coverage area and customer service.” The market is saturated with sexy phones. Time to build out the network.

To hear a whimsical debate on the matter, catch The BeanCast advertising podcast, which we recorded last night with host Bob Knorpp, Bill Green, Greg Verdino, and Åsk Wäppling. Åsk lives in Malmö, Sweden with gads of bandwidth, and wonders why we Yanks don’t have video conferencing on mobile yet.

Antimarketing: If it works for health care, why not you?


We’ve been watching the sordid healthcare debates in the U.S. with fascination. 46 million Americans still have no health insurance, medical costs are skyrocketing, total spending is on track to become one-fifth of the GDP by 2020, and the younger population does not have the numbers or tax inclination to support aging Boomers. But toss out one whiff that the government will hold death panels to kill old people, and hey, that sounds realistic, and suddenly people are mad.

We won’t say who is right or wrong (although we read pages 425-428 of the actual bill that described end of life counseling and have to say, it’s the basic job description of a social worker). The point we can all agree on is casting seeds of doubt works — as well as spitting in a salad dressing bottle.

Antimarketing works best in politics where you only have to tip a few percent of people in the middle of the spectrum to stop a cause. Political masses act like an inverted pendulum, a tipsy balancing pole with a hinge near the ground that can easily be pushed left or right. Antimarketing also appears in urban legends (remember the early one about not flashing your car lights to someone else at night cause a gang would then come and kill you? Or was that healthcare panels, we forget…). It plays upon our fears. It pushes us *away* from taking an action, and if enough people don’t act, your anti-cause has succeeded.

Warning: Our competitors’ products might kill you

The puzzle is, why don’t more advertisers try this same thing? We’ve seen whiffs of it — PETA ads protesting animal furs, anti-clean-coal ads showing nasty dust sprayed around a white house. Our favorite is the recent Australian skin-cancer rap, and not just for the swimsuits. But it is very difficult to push consumers away from buying objects, because the magnetic attraction of food/sex/shelter/status/signaling overrides any counter argument rather easily. We’d be fascinated to see more antimarketing in the real marketing world. Would it work? You fight so hard to attract customers to your product; what happens if you push them away from a competitor?

Image: We Made This

How do agencies build buzz in a recession?

Not with press releases. Look what Plaid is doing. This branding/interactive shop has enlisted the mayor of Danbury, Conn., in a proposed military assault on Denver, challenged Denver’s own mayor, and took over a popular Denver-based ad blog all to promote an upcoming road tour.

Ad agencies do road tours? You get the idea. In a market where people retrench, go build buzz.

P.S. Plaid invited us to play on the Denver Egotist blog takeover, see our riff here.

Page and clean coal not found


Clean energy is a controversial topic; it’s easy to say you don’t like coal, but coal is powering about half the juice running through your office or home at this instant. Regardless of your position, Crispin Porter + Bogusky strikes a chord for the Alliance for Climate Protection by placing anti-coal banners on web 404 pages.

Brilliant media buy matching a web user’s disappointment over not finding a web page with a PR spin. Via Brian Morrissey.

Take the Amazon Kindle sales logic test!


In its fourth quarter ended Dec. 31, 2008, Amazon.com, Inc. reported $3.63 billion in North American segment sales, $3.07 billion in international segment sales, $2.89 billion in worldwide electronics and other general merchandise sales …

Oh yes, and Amazon reported no sales data on the Kindle.

This is a noteworthy PR move because analysts and pundits are lauding the Kindle as being a hot-seller despite the fact Amazon has released no sales figures for the e-book device. Amazon pushes the Kindle (now updated in design) on its home page constantly, and crows it will transform how people read books. Stephen Dubner over at Freakonomics, usually an intelligent writer, illustrates the buy-in when he notes: “although Amazon is famously quiet about releasing sales figures, the consensus is that the Kindle has been a big success.”

So let’s do a logic test: Say you are Amazon and you launch a new technology product to great fanfare, and the numbers roll in, so you:

A. release the sales data to boost your stock, since you’ve exceeded expectations;
B. don’t release the data, since true figures wouldn’t meet expectations and thus would hammer your stock.

Hmm. No, really, Amazon, we believe you. Feel free to comment below with the actual Kindle sales results.

Obama launches Recovery.gov, the great threat to advertisers


Liberals will love it. Conservatives will hate it. Advertisers will have heart attacks.

Tomorrow The New York Times technology section and WSJ.com will be reviewing the new Recovery.gov web site, which launched today to showcase how the stimulus funds are being used to perform CPR on our economy. It has some nice touches: Omnipresent web video, registration for email updates, chance to share your personal stories, a timeline of activities. MSNBC will run a puff piece and Rush Limbaugh will have histrionics.

But the real story is advertisers are scared, because Recovery.gov is one more illustration of how large and complex organizations (such as the federal government) are bypassing traditional media sources (CNN and Fox News) to speak directly to the public. And when big players talk to small consumers directly, the old model of third-party interception with advertising gets pushed aside. The issues driving this are manifold:

+ Low-cost mass media — the White House can set up a web site anyone can access for a few thousand dollars.
+ Almost-perfect access to scheduling — news of new information sources travels extremely fluidly, so consumers know almost instantly that a major new source (Recovery.gov) has launched without reading TV Guide.
+ A plethora of free media platforms — YouTube, Twitter, Blogger — give enterprises of any size free video and text publishing tools to set up their own transmissions.
+ Growing consumer comfort in finding, sharing, and adding to source material — perhaps the biggest trend of the past 5 years is people yearning to participate directly in how information is shared.

It’s a lovely move, watching people become more creative with more access to more programming. Except it is squeezing the financial sources that make it all possible. With nary an advertiser in sight.

The 128 failures of George W. Bush?


As the pregnant U.S. election nears its delivery date this month there are plenty of cries rising from both sides of the political chamber. The left scores one with this microsite listing 128 executive branch “failures” since 2000. The site was built by the Center for Public Integrity, a nonpartisan news organization criticized in the past for favoring rightist political groups. This go-around, however, George W. Bush gets berated with hyperlinks to complaints spurred by emails from 4,800 government employees.

Left or right, right or wrong, the microsite is notable for how compelling it is as a form of political commentary. It’s branded under “broken government,” certain to grab attention. The 128 articles form a powerful argument, and in-depth analysis — based on government reports and wide sources of journalism — create a McKinsey-ish fact-based pyramid. Whatever your story, when you build it on detailed sources the argument is hard to topple.

(In the spirit of fair play we’ll note the conservatives’ complaints regarding the left soon.)

Via Guy Kawasaki.