Home  › Marketing › Strategies

Is Your Brand A Ticking Time Bomb?

  |  December 26, 2006   |  Comments

How to find out -- before the explosion.

If you're not sure what you should wish for your brand in 2007, I have a suggestion.

Last week, "Time" revealed you and I are "Person of the year." The Internet and its viral power has turned everyone into a broadcaster. How will this affect brands?

The answer is simple: brands can no longer afford to upset the consumer. Chances are, however, you're likely upsetting your customers more than ever. If you don't believe me, read on.

Ten years ago, I wrote the first book on how to build brands online. In the back of Brand Building on the Internet. I listed 10 essential rules for brands to follow online. Rule number one was to reply to customers. Very simple, yes, and essential for anyone with a serious online presence. I decided to test the rule by sending a simple consumer inquiry to the 100 largest brands. Using the 'contact us' feature on the corporate Web site of each brand, I asked each company a simple question about their brand. Questions you'd be able to answer in seconds.

What do you think the response rate was?

First, the good news. Thirty percent of the brands replied within the first 24 hours. Great, thought I, merrily assuming a similar response rate on day two. But the reality was I had to wait a very long time to get replies back from all the companies I'd written to. In fact, I'm still waiting. More than half the companies never replied at all. I'm not talking about mom-and-pop brands, but brands which are valued by billions; companies that also talk about customer satisfaction and in most cases even include their professed commitment to consumers in their vision statements.

This lack of care for the individuals that make your business a success and secure a living for all your employees wouldn't apply to you, would it? Or does it?

Ask five friends to send your company a simple customer inquiry. Be prepared for disappointment. Your brand may fail the test. You have to know. If you're in doubt, you'd better act quickly because tomorrow's brands simply can't afford to fail on such simple customer-care test.

The good news is that, by entering this simple experiment, you can keep the bad news (if it turns out to be bad) in camera. But don't forget. You won't simply be testing speed of replies, but quality of replies.

Some years ago, a Jonah Peretti turned Nike and its marketing machine upside down by submitting a rather unusual naming request via its Nike ID feature. If you're not familiar with Nike ID, check it out. It enables customers to submit a name request and have it printed on the shoes of your choice. Peretti asked Nike to print "Sweatshop" one his shoes. His request was rejected.

Ten years ago, this may not have been a big deal. But today, when the consumer is the "Person of the year," Peretti's one-man offensive and Nike's response would damage the Nike marketing machine and the brand it's responsible for. Over 80,000 sites cover Peretti's story online, retracing the rather naïve dialog that ensued between Nike's legal team and one lone fighter. The problem was not only Nike's rejection, but also the way they rejected the request. They threw a giant legal department into action and employed legal jargon as a weapon to silence Peretti. The weapon was ineffective, of course, and the opposite happened. The fact that you're reading about him right now is evidence to this.

Meaningful and genuine dialog, i.e., just a friendly phone call from the company, could have turned the situation around. Yet most companies forget the power today's consumer has through that most potent of all communication channels: word-of-mouth.

If you dare, send a nasty request or complaint to your own company. Ask one of those irritating questions which address a true weakness of your product or service, just as "sweatshop" pierced the heart of Nike's reputation.

First, you'd better hope you receive a reply. Assuming you do, hope that reply is a thoughtful, respectful and salient one. Will you receive a call from a friendly and intelligent person, or an anonymous impersonal form e-mail, or a defensive response from the legal department?

If, like me, you're convinced "Time" is right, that you and I are "person of the year" and the world's most powerful marketing machine, you'd better move quickly. The good news is I didn't mention your company in this column. The bad news is that someone might to do so soon.

ClickZ Live Toronto On the heels of a fantastic event in New York City, ClickZ Live is taking the fun and learning to Toronto, June 23-25. With over 15 years' experience delivering industry-leading events, ClickZ Live offers an action-packed, educationally-focused agenda covering all aspects of digital marketing. Register today!

ClickZ Live San Francisco Want to learn more? Join us at ClickZ Live San Francisco, Aug 10-12!
Educating marketers for over 15 years, ClickZ Live brings together industry thought leaders from the largest brands and agencies to deliver the most advanced, educational digital marketing agenda. Register today and save $500!


Martin Lindstrom

Martin Lindstrom is recognized as one of the world's primary on- and offline branding gurus by the Chartered Institute of Marketing. He is the author of several best-selling branding books including his latest, "BRAND sense: Build Powerful Brands through Touch, Taste, Smell, Sight, and Sound," published by Free Press. BRANDsense.com details information about Lindstrom's "BRAND sense" and the BRAND sense Symposium, a branding conference running in 51 cities in 31 countries.

COMMENTSCommenting policy

comments powered by Disqus

Get the ClickZ Marketing newsletter delivered to you. Subscribe today!



Featured White Papers

Gartner Magic Quadrant for Digital Commerce

Gartner Magic Quadrant for Digital Commerce
This Magic Quadrant examines leading digital commerce platforms that enable organizations to build digital commerce sites. These commerce platforms facilitate purchasing transactions over the Web, and support the creation and continuing development of an online relationship with a consumer.

Paid Search in the Mobile Era

Paid Search in the Mobile Era
Google reports that paid search ads are currently driving 40+ million calls per month. Cost per click is increasing, paid search budgets are growing, and mobile continues to dominate. It's time to revamp old search strategies, reimagine stale best practices, and add new layers data to your analytics.




    • GREAT Campaign Project Coordinator
      GREAT Campaign Project Coordinator (British Consulate-General, New York) - New YorkThe GREAT Britain Campaign is seeking an energetic and creative...
    • Paid Search Senior Account Manager
      Paid Search Senior Account Manager (Hanapin Marketing) - BloomingtonHanapin Marketing is hiring a strategic Paid Search Senior Account Manager...
    • Paid Search Account Manager
      Paid Search Account Manager (Hanapin Marketing) - BloomingtonHanapin Marketing is hiring an experienced Paid Search Account Manager to...