It all began on February 3. On Kenneth Cole's Twitter feed, a tweet, signed by the creator himself (or, at least, "an authorized person"), read:
We were in the midst of the Egyptian revolution. Tens of thousands of protesters gathered daily in Tahrir Square demanding true democracy ... and in the thick of it, the American fashion brand diverts this movement for its own marketing. This tweet travelled around the Internet, prompting both outraged comments, and messages of approval. Suddenly the virtual world was split: On one side were those that said the tweet was in the worst possible taste, criticizing the irresponsible brand, on the other were fans (mostly American), who found the message amusing and reaffirmed their commitment to the brand.
Kenneth Cole, after admitting (half-heartedly) that he did not wish to offend the Egyptians, finally posted an apology (just as discreetly) on Facebook -
March 2010: a year ago there was another battle between Nestle and Greenpeace (the story is well related and analysed on ReadWriteWeb in French). In this instance, Nestlé showed an appalling un-professionalism. For a long time Greenpeace had been denouncing the attitude "of Nestlé sub-contractors who, to produce palm oil essential for food processing, do not hesitate to ransack Indonesian forests and destroy the habitat of many protected species". Faced with the silence of the group, Greenpeace launched a Web "attack" by deflecting the KitKat logo, creating minisites and posting a film on You Tube.
Nestle's (or their PR agency's) reaction was very careless: they summoned them to withdraw the film, arguing that it infringed their intellectual property rights. This was what triggered a form of general mobilization on the Internet and attracted media attention: Nestlé was accused of censorship. Greenpeace, simultaneously orchestrating a media campaign, called on its militants to post messages on Nestlé's Facebook page by replacing their profile photo by that of the altered logo:
This "commando" operation by Greenpeace was successful: a month later at the shareholders general assembly Nestlé announced a programme to combat deforestation and Peter Brabeck, Nestlé's Chairman, sent a letter to Greenpeace with details of the group's commitments.
These two interesting examples, like all the others listed by Jeremyah Owyang, show that brands cannot escape the notice of Net surfers and that they have to professionalize their Web administering by:
- Equipping themselves with a genuine "social contract" to handle their relationship with the Web
- Appointing a Community Manager, responsible for communicating with Internet users … therefore paying them real attention, and
- Being willing to apologize when a mistake is made
They will thus prove themselves as responsible, give no reason for criticism – and even forestall the attacks… that (surely) will happen one day or another.