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Archive for August, 2010

Lessons from Disastrous Social Media Marketing of BP and Nestle

Posted by Mrityunjay on August 18, 2010

Businesses really need to be careful these days.  It is the era of social media and one minor mistake from corporate houses can land them in big trouble. If social media platforms can be powerful allies as we saw in case of P&G in the previous post, it can also throw businesses down the drain or can set back by few billion bucks along with loss of consumer confidence. Coporate beware!

The case of P&G was a wonderful demonstration of how to leverage the new age advertising mediums whereas Nestle and BP did everything to make a royal mess of the faculties. Poor handling of social media marketing can destroy the reputation of the firms. Though, we have no doubt over capabilities of Nestle and BP to shake off the dust and start shining again but it will be a long and painful process which could have been avoided if they had paid more attention to their social media marketing strategies.

The problems of Nestle started over their policies of buying palm oil. In came, Greenpeace in the picture and accusations of supporting deforestation and putting endangered species in risk were levied on Nestle. To further its campaign, Greenpeace posted a video on YouTube which has received more than 3,50,000 page views till the date.

This was just the beginning though. Soon, Nestle moved to have the video removed which naturally fuelled the fire. The next target was Nestle’s Facebook pages. And that’s where Nestle lost the plot. Going by its reaction to the flood of negative publicity, it was clear that company was ill prepared to handle such social media disaster.  And that is not a solitary exception. It is in fact, a norm and many top companies are still not adept at handling unexpected major crises. Call it lack of disaster management or whatever you feel but this incident had a major bearing on Nestlé’s quarterly results and investor’s confidence.

It was rather unexpected and very silly of Nestle’s Facebook page to go offensive. Its response to the users was totally antagonistic and sarcastic. It was total PR disaster. Check out this image.

British petroleum (BP) was another poor example of below par social media strategy. The oil spill incident badly tarnished its image. It cost the company its CEO, billions of losses, political and environmental backlashes and erosion in consumers’ confidence. It will take BP years to offset the losses but one fact is certain; company was wayward in its handling of the public reactions on social media sites.

When people started to attack BP through Tweets and Facebook pages, BP kept mum for a long time. Its Twitter ID@BP_America was found wanting in communication. There was no response, tweet and retweet. Basically, it was one way communication and that was the last thing BP was supposed to do at that point of time. In short, both Nestle and BP had a very serious social media meltdown.

So what are the lessons for other companies who have yet to encounter such problems? Other firms should ideally make a proper social media strategy with primary focus on crisis management.

  • Both companies failed to show honesty, transparency and openness. They tried to protect their reputation using sarcastic, aggressive tone and barrage of lies. Instead of facing the public in a nice and polite way, they took the other way round. The crisis was further accentuated because of the way it was handled.

  • Both companies lacked proper social media strategy. They definitely could have done better with their presence in social media sites like YouTube, LinkedIn, Facebook and twitter. In the era of tweets, it is really foolish to be caught off-guard. Companies need to be proactive and should interact with consumers.

  • There is no point running away from criticism. It always pays to engage and interact with the users in a transparent way. It helps in building confidence and trust among customers and that’s the only things a company needs during the time of disaster.

  • Companies should never respond out of panic and neither should they become dismissive and defensive. There should a proper team in place taking care of all the fan page and comments.

Companies would do well to formulate online reputation management. Social media is here to stay and businesses should be prepared to handle any future crises.

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How Old Spice Man Campaign from Procter & Gamble Redefined Social Media Marketing

Posted by Mrityunjay on August 15, 2010

What is the similarity between Dell, Coke, P&G, Nestle and of course, BP? No, they all are world renowned corporate giants and operate as segment leaders in their respective categories. What else? Did you say, Social Media? Bang on! Yes, the fortunes of these companies have been greatly affected with their social media marketing strategies. Though, not all of them can claim to have garnered positive reviews. The bottom-line is, some of these companies have greatly benefited from smart use of social media platforms and some others have definitely learnt a lesson or two. I will be talking about two sides of the same social media coin in two posts. This post will largely focus on the parts that present a wonderful example of how best to use social media marketing.

Dell, as we all know is a leader in notebook market. It is also credited with launching new modes of sales and marketing. So what happens when Dell started its own Facebook fan page? Stats show a tremendous increase in Dell’s brand loyalty and certainly consumer appeal. Dell runs several blogs related to customer service, product launch etc with great effect. Same with Coke. Needless to say, these two giants had the wisdom to take initiative and are making good use of their brand name. However, the real shining light is P&G. The way it unleashed a social media blitz, there is bound to have multiple repercussions on the landscape of social network marketing. Viral marketing was redefined with marketing of the old and forgotten Old Spice brand.

Old Spice marketing gimmick was an example for start-ups in regards to how to apply basic marketing practices in social media networks. No, it was not just the budget that made the campaign a huge hit. It was rather a low cost opportunity that was fully exploited by P&G. The company launched its brand character the “Old Spice Man” in a Super Bowl ad last February. What this character did was to promise women that he was “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like”. The character was played by “Isaiah Mustafa” who possessed perfect abs and not to forget, a very polished sense of humor and timing.

The popularity of ad spread like a wild fire in the jungle. Till the date, it has been viewed approximately 14-15 million times on YouTube. The ad was created by popular ad agency Wieden + Kennedy. Once the word of mouth publicity spread across the YouTube, the agency posted a simple (but miraculous) message on the Twitter and Facebook pages of Old Spice. It reads, “Today could be just like the other 364 days you log into Twitter, or maybe the Old Spice Man shows up @Old Spice.”

And that’s how a viral phenomenon started. Netizens started to ask questions to the Old Spice Man who responded to the queries with video vignettes. The replies had everything; good dosage of humor, witty lines presented by a bare-chested man with abs to die for. More than 180 videos were produced within a span of two days.

Even top Hollywood celebrities, gadget geeks, Olympians etc posed queries and got video answers. However, the real clincher was Old Spice Man’s response to Kevin Rose, the founder of social network Digg.com. Afterwards, Rose made a simple tweet “Holy sh*t, best get well video EVER from Old Spice” and message went out to his million-plus Twitter followers. And the rest is history.

Stats show the massive popularity of the ad. More than 7,50,000 FB users ‘liked’ the ad and its Twitter followers increased exponentially. The inclusion of celebrities with huge number of followers on social media network definitely helped the cause. The Old Spice commercials have received millions (it’s pointless to count the number anymore) of views. And what do you think was the cost of the media? Nothing actually.

This entire narration offers a wonderful resource of social media marketing lessons for other firms, especially the likes of BP and Nestle.

P.S- This Post wouldn’t have been possible without going through several corporate social media case studies and opinions expressed by SMM analysts.

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Why Should You Watch a Movie Alone

Posted by Mrityunjay on August 12, 2010

Few months back, I got an opportunity to watch the monstrous hit of the century, “Avatar” in the theatre with 3 friends of mine. Yes, you can ask me about, was Avatar my last movie in a cinema hall? Yes, it was. Boggled? Okay, don’t be! I will tell my reason for why I did not watch any other movie in theater since then, later in the post. Now, coming back to my ‘Avatar’ experience, the film was of course as entertaining as movie critics, reviews and friends would have me believe but there were quite a few things that perturbed me during my movie experience.

First things first. If the movie was supposed to begin at 1.00 PM, it has to start at 1.20 PM simply because they will have us bombarded with cheesy adverts and hilarious trailers and of course, make us stand on our National Anthem. Yes, that’s the only time we are supposed to listen and respect the ‘Jana Gana Mana’ anthem. You are expected to be silent, attentive, tuned and respectful and if you are not, within few seconds, you will have to face unfriendly stares and you never know, someone might come over to you and brand you as anti-national or a terrorist.  Okay, last part might be an exaggeration but you get the idea what could happen over there.

Soon, the movie began but with that also began hell lot of munching, chatting and obscene comments. No, this is not a scene from a single screen theatre but of a popular multiplex where only affluent citizens and educated people are expected to shell out hefty money and enjoy the experience of watching a 3D movie. Errr..That’s just the beginning. Lights went off and here comes avalanche of fascinating comments from backseats.  “Do you think that can happen in real?” “That chick looks hot” “I have seen this movie” “Now, the next scene is this…that” “I have a date tonight”. Etc etc.

On one hand, you are trying to concentrate on the movie and dialogue but these ‘experts’ won’t let you do so. Once you get adjusted to their blabbering, you try to refocus on the movie and out of blue, you listen ‘Shakira Shakira, O baby when you dance like that..’. Avatar had ‘Hips don’t lie’ song? Nah, you are mistaken my friend. It’s a ring tone ringing at loudest possible voice. You turn back and try staring at the person carrying the mobile but you find him talking loudly on the phone and his fellow seat-mates have no objection to that! Wow, great beginning.

Okay, this too shall pass away, you repeat in your mind. A peaceful 10 minutes passes when you find yourself in the midst of a genuine anarchy when some little angel starts crying at high decibel. Screw Navi’s! Here is the one little sod who is needed to be teleported to the distant planet. You feel helpless and start praying for kid’s parents to shut the little devil’s mouth.

I will repeat again. Why the hell parents bring their infants to the theater? People are very annoying by nature but children…they are just…No, I love kids but never ever in theater. I assume myself to be a accepting and generous soul but in a theatre where you have gone for some real good experience after shelling out hefty sums on tickets, popcorns and whatever, I start feeling broken.

Constant chattering, ringing cell phones, turbulent kids totally ruin the experience of watching a movie. Personally, I would much rather prefer to watch a movie all alone so that I can breathe it, experience it, be the character, laugh and cry as well. A film demands to be seen closely. I would prefer to analyze it, study it and make my own judgment but it has become almost impossible to witness silent audiences in a packed cinema. Why would I discuss a movie while watching it? I would rather prefer to talk about it after 2-3 hours of rapt attention.

Insensitive banters of kids and adults in the theatre make you miss huge chunks of the film. And bantering is not the only thing here. You are also expected to handle encroachment of your personal space in forms of someone kicking you in the back of your seat, your neighbor forcing his/her wrists on the drinks holder or even someone yawning with his full might! Can you still claim to enjoy sitting at the cinema?

I know, my problems don’t concern you but of all you readers, even if one empathize with me, I will feel much better and liberated, perhaps. So what is the option? Either you go alone or you go when movie is no more the talk of the town or you just get a DVD, start your laptop, switch off your phone and just enjoy the solitude of the movie. Plus, if you are watching a movie weeks or months after its release, you are more likely to be not influenced by critics, newspaper ratings, reviews, friend’s opinions, forced hype, and uncomfortable buzz etc. Applying the logical side of the brain becomes much easier when the hype is dead.

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Social Media Marketing Dilemma

Posted by Mrityunjay on August 9, 2010

While reading this beautiful article on Aided or forced social media engagement, I wondered over start-ups or established brick and mortar companies who are trying hard to go visible on social media radar but with inadequate success. What recourses do these firms have when their carefully or should we say, impulsively devised social media plan fails to bring the desired results?

Before venturing any further, let’s clear the basic premises. One, social media has emerged as an absolutely essential part of marketing division of an organization. It would be catastrophic to ignore this aspect of marketing and promotion that has completely redefined the way marketing strategies are being formulated and implemented. In simplest terms, the success of a business depends upon its ability to acquire new customers and retain the existing ones. However, the competition is extremely stiff and marketing avenues are limited. In that light, arrival of social media marketing has turned out to be a boon for companies that were willing to make a mark for themselves but had struggled with the need of finding new channels.

But what if, despite spending millions, so many companies, large and small are not actually able to register a satisfactory return on investment on the puzzle named, social media marketing. Some actually believe it to be a hype that has only benefited those who joined the bandwagon early on. Social media marketing tools like YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn etc have turned out to be great money-spinners for quite a good number of companies who were smart and savvy enough to make the most of opportunities offered by these tools. But, same cannot be said for many other firms who either are struggling with their inability to unlock the vast potential offered by social media tools or who simply lack the planning and strategy blueprints.

Let’s term it Social Media Dilemma on the presumption that most of the firms, trying to take a dive in the treasure ocean named social media are expecting to come out with a handful of gold (read followers) are, actually trying to follow an oft-treaded path. Yes, Facebook and Twitter are quite influential but there is more to SMM than these two. It is not just about growing number of followers. It is also not just about making a fan page or starting a community or creating a profile and you start expecting overnight surge in numbers of clients who are looking desperately for you.

What’s the game plan here? Sending out 100’s of tweets everyday to your double digit followers and expecting your social media profile to become a cash cow in a double quick time? Social media is not rocket science that you fail to decipher. Like in an offline business plan, you think of all the relevant fundaments including 4 P’s, demography, target customers, investment, time horizon, ROI and expected results after a certain point of time. It works the same way in social media. Number of followers is nothing but a metric here that doesn’t actually define the total success or failure of your social media plan. Yes, you must try to reach out, connect and establish relationships with potential consumers but are you using the right platforms?

The idea of growth must be intentional in nature. You create a profile on Facebook (of course, its free), offer schemes/vouchers/coupons to your consumers and well, the next thing you start visualizing is bombardment of calls on your customer care service inquiring about your products and services? Wish, life could be that simple! You just can’t hope for things to happen on their own.

How about paying a bit of attention to some of other corporate that had to pour significant amounts of time and money to convert netizens into loyal followers? If you have money then spend it wisely and with purpose and intent. Order fresh cappuccinos and sit down with your social media consultant and play the game of Devil’s Advocate. What are the specific plans with regards to increasing Facebook Fans, attracting Twitter followers, creating a blog(s), focusing on newsletter subscribers and feeds, motivating your followers to influence their respective connections, investing a bit on online reputation management, hiring a team of bloggers, using keyword rich stuff, back linking, encouraging your users to discuss more on your products and services in diverse forums and interacting with consumers!

It takes time to register a significant increase in your bottom-line, whether it’s traditional media or social media marketing but you got to have a sound business plan, appropriate campaign strategies and renewed focus on diverse channels. As you start experiencing growth, you will have a far clearer roadmap of how to leverage to its optimum.

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Fight Club

Posted by Mrityunjay on August 3, 2010

I was itching to write on David Fincher’s ‘Fight Club’ for a week or two. I had first watched this movie 7-8 years ago but my mind couldn’t really fathom the impact of the movie at that time. I watched it again few days back and I was totally bamboozled. This must be one of the most underrated movies of all time. Movie bombed at the box office and failed to win any Oscar. Fight Club had everything going about it; with Fincher of ‘Se7en’ & ’The Game’ fame at the helm, Brad Pitt in a scintillating role and Edward Norton in an ever effective role. This movie was frightening, self-contemplating, black comedy and not to forget an eclectic combination of male insecurity and kind of feminist.

Fight Club is a brutal satire that borders on overt display of aggression and confrontation with the system. The initial few scenes into the movie and you will be reminded of anti-consumerism rant of another masterpiece ‘Trainspotting’. It was definitely a risky venture and as someone said, it bites the hand that feeds it. The USP of the film is its vocal ranting against the status quo. In a way, Fight Club talks about materialistic people and the world that are too immersed in their worldly possessions. The protagonist Norton does a perfect job narration in a dead-pan tone topped by sardonic tirade against our consumer obsessed culture.

The director had deftly handled the multiple personality theme of Tyler (Pitt) and Jack (Norton). Even the character of Marla is so impactful. If Jack on one hand is totally submissive in nature accepting his destiny and a slave to his Ikea possessions then Tyler is everything that Jack ever wanted to be but couldn’t be because of his ‘too corrupted by the system’ existence. Very few movies have explored the concept of split personality with such precision. Both male characters are poles apart in their thought process and actions. If Jack is passively hateful then Tyler actively uses his hatred to express it. If jack is all about psychotic behavior and hoodlumism then Jack is shown as a weak and helpless soul who has nothing to help himself except for clandestine visits to self-help groups.

Fight Club is a psychological piece of brilliance. Every scene, frame demands your attention. For instance, Jack finds Marla too screwed up and can’t really imagine himself as her partner but his Tyler self keeps humping her in an animalistic fashion. In hindsight, it was the character of Marla who made Jack realize his masculinity but he just won’t admit it because his ego can’t accept this fact that someone as outcast, as psychotic as Marla can have a positive influence on him.  That acceptance will be a blow to Jack’s perceived personality of self.

Coming to the concept of Fight Club, for me that was more like a male bonding on gut physical fighting level. My interpretation tells me that male bonding takes a different angle when two adult males respect each other on the basis of their physical strengths and its outbursts. Call it ‘strength bonding’ that not only makes fearless, ideological males come together on a single platform but also weeds out the weak. This notion completely rubbishes the myth of ‘the meek shall inherit the earth’.

Fight Club actually aims at defining the attributes of wimp and the stud. It is more like a stud never buying a diet coke or a wimp never opting for strong black coffee. That’s the idea of large corporations who make a killing in their balance sheet on such forced perceptions on consumers. Nobody actually defined that pink colored mobiles or laptops are only suitable for females. Is there a written rule about it or it is such a strong marketing gimmick that has made we consumers totally slave to manipulative rules of corporate behemoths! That’s what Fight Club forces you to think.


 Now if I think of ‘fighting’ as the cornerstone of the movie and the purpose behind it, I can only draw one conclusion- fighting is a release of anger. It is cathartic tool that you can also use as an intimidating factor. You can reclaim your lost/defeated ego with the help of buckles and knuckles. This is reminiscent of gladiatorial era when fighters used to showcase their murdering skills in colosseum amidst the packed crowd who never had enough of blood and gore. The fight was the prerogative of males and this gender still hasn’t been able to find a better reason to bond with one another. When the world is turning into skeletons of emasculated souls, what better way to provide an outlet to your steadily building rage than a full blown fight?

We ordinary mortals definitely identify ourselves with criminals and gangsters on metaphorical levels. If not, why would you want to watch Godfather and Good Fellas and would secretly pray Corleone Clan to win over the system? We love anti-heroes but in fight club the climax shows the entire farce to be a figment of a psycho’s imagination and that’s where people couldn’t identify with it and perhaps movie bombed because of that. The irony is most of us can’t even claim to have self-awareness or self-knowledge to know what the hell is going on. We just do it automatically but to satisfy the deeper recesses of our original but suppressed self we create different images of self and hide them from each other so that we can take guilty pleasure in having multiple talented personalities. But you know, I know, that is far from the truth. We are just trying to hide ourselves in different ways. It is more like a defense mechanism employed against our inherent weakness which makes us ramble, rant, complain, and whine!

I guess, I can go on and on about the movie and its impact and thousands of interpretations but let’s stop at it for a while. Finally, a word for two actors- Norton is as terrific and understated as he has always been. You got to owe it to the guy’s supreme talent.  For Brad Pitt, this must be one of his top three performances along with ‘Kalifornia’ and ‘Twelve Monkeys’.

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