Few days back, a friend had posted an interesting question on Facebook.
About how Facebook was meant to be that place where you reconnected with old friends and had enjoyable conversations. But about how, now a lot of different types of your friends / colleagues / bosses etc. have got connected to you on Facebook, and which puts a certain caution about what you speak out there!
Interesting point of view. And true too.
My response to her was that in pre-Facebook (aka pre-Social Media) days, we had our multiple “avataars”. We were a friend to our schoolmates, a colleague to our work friends, a neighbour, a son / daughter, a husband / wife, a nephew / niece, a grandson / granddaughter, etc. etc. And we could lead our independent existences, as these various beings. Because each of those relationships and each of those spaces were independent of the other.
However, with nearly ALL of our different relationships converging together on Facebook, we are actually in a melting pot of sorts. And as melting pots go, we have to present our “one unified self” to all those relationships.
THIS is a consequence of this new media, this transparency, this openness. And we need to deal with it.
But that’s for individuals.
How does that work for brands / businesses?
Let me narrate for reference, an incident that occurred very recently. A not-very-pleasant incident, at that.
One new brand, a smashing, new entertainment center / lounge bar, etc. coming up in one of the mills compounds in Lower Parel, reached out to me one evening.
This lady called my at around 4 pm, stating that they were looking for a social media agency, and can someone come and meet them that very day. Remember she calls me at 4 pm, and is looking for someone to meet her that day.
I resisted a bit, but she persevered suggesting an urgency. And she did not tell much about the business too.
Ordinarily, we would have not responded or run down for such a vague sounding urgent call. However, one of my colleagues was out somewhere, and for some reason, I sensed an opportunity, and requested my colleague to go and visit them.
He went by, understood their requirement, saw the “smashing” place, etc. He was there at around 7 pm or so.
Then, guess what? They wanted us to get back to them with a proposal by…. THE NEXT DAY!!
We completely resisted this bit stating that we’ll need a lot more time to put together a proposal. But the CMO speaks to me, and pushes and pushes. For the completely unrealistic timeline.
Finally I agree to send a senior colleague from our strategy team, to have a look, get a better understanding, and then be able to revert with a proposal, but maybe in 2-3 days. He agrees to have this visit to happen, but insists that we revert with a proposal in 2 days at most.
Post my second colleague’s visit, we are asked to give a broad scope (not a pitch) and a budget the SAME day, and if we are in the workable range, then they’d ask is to work on a pitch. But we’d still get only 2 days to complete.
We took our chances. Gave a scope of work and budgetary price, and which they found acceptable, and they asked us to do the pitch, and revert back for a presentation, the day after, at 2-30 pm.
It was an impossible timeline, so the team started working in earnest. Burnt the midnight oil, came up with some really interesting ideas and strategy. Worked really hard.
The morning of the meeting, we exchanged some notes with the client, they gave us information.
Then at 1 pm, just as the team was about to leave for the presentation, we get an SMS to state that the agency was finalized the previous evening, and we don’t need to come for the presentation at all!
First they make us jump around in extreme urgency, make us slog the nights out and then they wouldn’t even give us a chance to pitch??!
On phone, some pathetic explanation was given. And that was the end of it.
Now what do I conclude about this company, this brand??
That they are an extremely unprofessional, arrogant and unethical set of people!!
Well, this experience was as a potential agency / vendor to them.
But now, me and our team, will continue to carry this image about them, as a brand overall.
So when the launch happens and they are written about, what will be the first thought that comes to our mind – “the unprofessional, unethical brand”! And we may share our views also to our friends and others on social media. For whatever be the worth of ours to be infuencers, to that extent at least, the story will spread.
And the brand would be hurt because someone in their brand / marketing team was an ass****!!
This in effect, is how brand reputation is also becoming a unified, one kind of reputation.
There were times earlier when a brand could have been a good, front-end service brand, and could have been squeezing its employees or vendors out. However, today those vendors or employees or other constituents and stakeholders are all alive on social media. And word gets out. You can’t be dual-personality. Even if you are a brand and not a person. Truth comes out!
Consider another scenario in today’s times. A brand sets up a Facebook page. From a marketing perspective. But seeing the brand name there, seeing the logo there, if there are folks who have not received their share dividend, and have not got response from the investor relations team, come to the page and post complaints, that cannot be stopped. Someone who applied for a job, and has been waiting to get a response, can come and ask the question here. A frustrated vendor, tired of waiting for his long pending payment, could come and post a question here. Etc.
Can these be stopped? No, these cannot.
So what happens to the brilliant marketing campaign that is otherwise running on the page? A user who comes to the page, may see some of the other negative aspects and make judgements about the brand. As a one whole piece. And not just based on the marketing campaign.
Today, brands may no longer have different reputations as an employer, as an investor friendly company, as a service provider, as a client to vendors. Like the human being who is found in a melting pot on Facebook, and not as individual entities like son, grandson, friend, colleague, neighbour, etc. so also, the brand has ONE reputation, based on the brand’s 360 degree presence.
So if the marketing folks are painstakingly building a certain imagery, they have to be equally concerned that their HR colleagues or their investor relations team colleagues are not messing things up!!
Interesting times we live in, what??