Customers who vent their anger in social media

[Updated 22.3.10]

We all know that the growth in web 2.0 has helped to shift power away from brands towards consumers but nothing demonstrates this more clearly than when you see customers using this platform to vent their anger and frustrations.  Whereas in the good ol’ days we’d have to brave the elements and take to the streets in order to be heard, nowadays we can protest from the comfort of our laptops whilst sipping a cup of Horlicks. Far more civilised!

Here are a few examples I’ve come across recently which I’ll try to update over time, but feel free to add more if you know any better ones.

Nestle’s Facebook fanpage

Rather than be a place to galvanise its legions of brand ambassadors, Nestle’s facebook page seems to be nothing more than a festering pit for aggrieved fanatics! You only need to look at the stream of comments on their wall to see that there’s unhealthy mix of consumers who use this forum to vent their anger against the brand’s unethical policies or else to rally support for their latest anti-Nestle Greenpeace initiative.

But what’s really gathered momentum recently is the backlash to the following provocative comment by Nestle moderators…

Not surprisingly the moderator was challenged by a ‘fan’ to try to embrace social media and have a conversation rather than preach.  Now surely the sensible thing to do here is to try to defuse the situation with a mix of charm, empathy and humility.  Unfortunately for Nestle, the ruffled moderator had other ideas and only succeeded in adding rocket fuel to the fire…

“Thanks for the lesson in manners. Consider yourself embraced. But it’s our page, we set the rules, it was ever thus.”

Needless to say, the backlash has been immense and on a global scale.  (via Brazen PR).


Twitter was bombarded by an avalanche of #saveBBC6music hash tags, after the Times reported that the BBC is to announce the closure of two digital radio stations: 6 Music and Asian Network.  They also have a fanbase on Facebook with 152,000 trying to save the station.

H & M – accused of being uncharitable

When H & M were caught dumping and shedding their ex-stock instead of giving it to charity it was first picked up by the New York Times. H & M chose not to respond until it became the 2nd highest trending topic on Twitter. It was only then that they decided to issue an apology on their Facebook page by which time the damage had already been done.   You can read more about this here by econsultancy.

Pears soap – Bring Back The Original Pears Soap Facebook Page

Woe betide any manufacturer who decides to change their much loved products without consulting their loyal fans.  When Unilever recently changed their formula for Original Pears Soap it created such a stink that their fans have started a fan page to get it changed back.

Thrifty – a disgruntled customer galvinises support on Twitter.

14-11-2009 13-13-13

South West Trains – a classic case of e-squatting where an aggrieved passenger for South West Trains registers the company name on Twitter and starts tweeting outlandish excuses as to why they provide such a shoddy service.  Makes for some amusing reading.


United Airlines – You’ve probably seen this one and bought the single already.  If not, this is what happened.

  • Musician gets guitar smashed in transit.
  • United Airlines ignore his complaints.
  • He writes song about it.
  • Result. 6 million views on YouTube.
  • Moral of the story – ignore angry musicians at your peril.

Easyjet – no frills airline easyjet is renown for two things. Cheap flights and crap service.


KFC – nearly half a million KFC fans campaigning to get finger lickin’ food delivered to your door. They’ve just got one more fan!kfc

Motrin – a spoof video in response to their controversial ad targeting Mums

Is social media just for chavs?

I was invited to present at the IAB Luxury Forum last week to talk about social media within the luxury sector.  There was a very interesting mix of speakers including:

  • the Deputy MD of Grazia (topline view of key digital insights within luxury sector)
  • the Head of Research & Insight at Microsoft Advertising (qualitative research on digital consumption in luxury sector)
  • the Founder of Howto.TV (how luxury brands are using video on demand)
  • the Head of Digital Planning and the Creative Director from Imagination (digital event case study for Christie’s Auction)
  • the MD from Maximiser (website optimisation tips).

If you’re interested in reading their presentations you can access them all here.

My presentation was initially billed as “Practical social media tips within the luxury sector” but that was until I found out I had the graveyard slot as the last presenter!

Whilst deliberately tongue-in-cheek  I was also trying to make a serious point  – is social media marketing a viable means of engaging affluent, aspirational audiences or is it more suited to mainstream brands who tend to cater for the masses?

This presentation puts forward the case that the luxury sector cannot afford to ignore social media, particularly when one considers how fast the social web is evolving. Yet at the same time, if Gartner is to believed, there’s a very high chance their social media campaigns will fail.   I therefore outline some key strategic considerations to help improve the chances of success, backed up with two practical social media examples from my client Infiniti Europe to bring this strategic approach to life.

If you work within the luxury sector – or any sector for that matter – I invite you to read this as there may be some useful nuggets for you to take away and apply.

Cyber Lions Grand Prix winners at Cannes

The Cyber Lions category at the Cannes International Advertising Festival covers a wide range of interactive marketing from websites, microsites, interactive campaigns, online advertising, rich media banners, mobile advertising, interactive tools, email marketing and viral videos.

This year there were three worthy winners who received a Grand Prix within this category.

‘Best Job in the World’ Campaign for Tourism Queensland

best-job-in-the-worldLet’s face it, we’ve all seen the typical tourist ads with beautiful, white sandy beaches, stunning aqua marine life and cliche couples walking off into the  sunset.  Whether it’s inviting us to visit Malta, Turkey, the Greek Islands or the Maldives, the final destination is almost interchangeable as it’s all based on the same consumer insight or creative treatment.

So it’s refreshing to see Tourism Queensland adopt a radically diifferent approach to make their modest marketing budget go that much further.

If you haven’t heard about this campaign yet you clearly love your job too much to even notice! Basically, instead of going down the traditional route, Tourism Queensland decided to place recruitment ads in various global media for a 6 month paid contract on Hamilton Island, describing it as ‘the best job in the world’.

Needless to say it wasn’t long before this campaign went viral.  What a great way to raise awareness of this beautiful destination whilst indirectly communicating the island’s key features. As an aside, I met a proctologist last week which must surely be the worst job in the world!  Given the choice, I think I’d much rather be a beach bum than a bum specialists!

Credit: Campaign created by Nitro

Fiat Eco:Drive campaign

The Fiat Eco:Drive system is an innovative application to help drivers reduce fuel costs and carbon emissions. Fiat drivers essentially have to download and install the Eco Drive Adobe Air application on their computers, sync a USB stick with the app and then plug the stick into the Fiat’s Blue and Me port. After driving somewhere, you can plug the USB stick back into your computer to upload all your driving data, whereupon it’s analysed to give you recommendations on how to improve your driving habits and ultimately your fuel efficiency.

Credit: AKQA London, UK

Warner Brothers ‘Why So Serious’ campaign for Dark Knight

I’ve always been fascinated with Alternative Reality Games ever since McKinney’s ground breaking Audi Heist a few years ago.  The amount of preparation, organisation and planning which goes into these sorts of campaigns  is absolutely mind-boggling and I particularly love the way it blurs the lines between the virtual world and reality.

For the launch of the film Dark Knight, Warner Brothers launched a meticulous ARG campaign to build buzz around the film, engaging 10 million participants in the process. Rather than try to explain it here, your best bet is to watch this video. Pure genius.

Twitter events

Interesting case study here from PSFK where Bibendum Wines of London invited influential social media wine bloggers to tweet about their experiences at their live wine tasting event. Believe it or not, this ended up reaching the top of the Trend chart on Twitter around the same time as Obama’s inauguration. No mean feat!

Wine tasting may seem rather niche and high brow to some but the principles of engaging Key Opinion Formers to road test products are the same in any industry.
  • Haute couture brands could invite fashionista microbloggers to fashion shows or factory tours
  • FMCG brands could ask influential microbloggers if they’d like to receive a free sample of the latest product and invite them to tweet about it.
  • Charities could run Twestivals
  • Telecoms brands could invite early adopter microbloggers to be the first to trial their latest phone
  • Car brands could invite influential auto microbloggers to a test drive event  and ask them to tweet about the models (but preferably not while driving!)

It’s particularly encouraging to see a luxury brand such as Bibendum embrace Twitter so well and enjoy such success. I’m amost tempted to raise my glass!