Is it just me, or has the world of marketing been going a little too well over the past few weeks? It seems as though there was a faint ticking sound coming from the marketing campaign time bomb, just waiting to blow.
Since the unfortunate airing of the Kendall Jenner Pepsi commercial or the United Airlines passenger mishap, there really hasn’t been any exciting marketing and PR news. Well, that all changed last week when Bedrock Detroit decided to launch its “See Detroit Like We Do” campaign. I wouldn’t necessarily say I’m pleased that another campaign finally fell through the cracks, but you must agree that it was long overdue.
For those of you who haven’t seen it yet, Bedrock Detroit placed a sign with the slogan “See Detroit Like We Do,” that filled the windows along the ground level of a building in downtown Detroit. That doesn’t sound too bad, right? Wrong. The photograph featured mostly white individuals in a city that is widely known for its diverse culture.
Yikes! Now What?
How companies handle unfortunate situations like the Bedrock Campaign is crucial for their ongoing success. Luckily, Dan Gilbert, founder of Bedrock Detroit and Quicken Loans, was able to address the situation with both speed and grace. “We screwed up badly the graphic package that was partially installed on the retail windows of the first floor of the Vinton Building, in downtown Detroit,” Gilbert said in an open letter posted on Bedrock Detroit’s Facebook page.
“Although not intended to create the kind of feelings it did, the slogan/statement we used on these graphics was tone deaf, in poor taste and does not reflect a single value or philosophy that we stand for at Bedrock Development or in our entire Family of companies,” the letter said. “We have killed the ‘See Detroit Like We Do’ campaign.” It looks like someone payed attention in public relations class! Bravo, Dan.
So, What Did We Learn?
The mistakes that companies make can be very detrimental to both their finances and public image. This is where the PR department must weigh its options; to act or not to act—that is the question.
- Act. And act quickly. When bad news hits you directly, you need to respond immediately.
- Give your organization a face. At this point you’re already dealing with bad publicity, so you want to present your company as one which people can connect with.
- Present the facts. Considering the media driven world we live in, many situations become twisted and can make your situation out to be worse than it is, so act truthfully.
- Be transparent. Allowing people to see how and why things went wrong can help your image in the future.
- Own up to your mistakes. Aside from acting quickly, this might be the most important step. People don’t want to hear the run-around of excuses. Admit your faults and move on.
- Be sincere. Most people can cut through a lot of business talk and empty words. If they can hear sincerity, they are more likely to be forgiving.
While it is somewhat unsettling to see our fellow marketers make these mistakes, it’s an eye-opening experience for anyone involved—particularly the audience. Put yourself in their shoes; see your message through their eyes. You don’t want to be the one to set off that ticking time bomb.
Imagine that you’re taking your child to their first driving lesson, and out of nowhere, a car cuts you off and the driver is yelling at you. A few moments later, you pull up to the driving school to see the same person is now your child’s driving instructor. More than likely, you would take your child somewhere else. I’m not saying that you have to be a robot, but it’s important to be aware of your actions. Whether you’re on the clock or not, being a positive advocate for your brand is important.
I’m no wizard. Therefore, I can’t control when unexpected things happen to me. But, I can control the way I react to them. Showing self-control on tough situations tells people a lot about your character, which reflects positively on your brand.
Don’t be average
Demonstrate that your brand is unique. While attending networking events, make it a point to engage with everyone in the room, not just key people. Go above and beyond the norm. Learn about their interests and goals, so that you can offer support or advice. This builds trust, an important factor in business decisions.
When people trust you, your brand will speak for itself.
If you can successfully reach out and influence others positively, they will never forget about you.
The age of posting excessive pictures of your fancy drinks and fun foods on social media has arrived. Since the dawn of social media, people have captured photos and posted them online for the world to see. But now, everywhere you turn someone is seeking the perfect lighting for a picture of the newest vegan soup, or for the case of this discussion, the newest Starbucks drink.
But I love Starbucks…
There is no denying that Starbucks is dominating the Café industry, but have they gone too far? The new Unicorn Frappuccino went from an internet sensation to a controversial lawsuit in a matter of weeks. The globally desired drink hit the shelves on April 19 and was said to be a limited time offer. Limited time offer…brilliant. Not only did they develop a drink that was social media gold, they scheduled it so that everyone would have to try it before it was too late. Even the customers who were unable to get their hands on one turned to social media. Only this time to vent their frustration. I guess it’s true what they say, there’s no such thing as bad publicity!
PR specialists explain that the Unicorn Frappuccino was inspired by unicorn-themed food and drinks trending on social media, unicorn emojis, and the unicorn filter on Snapchat. Brooklyn café, The End, had a different opinion, saying that Starbucks ripped-off their already established drink called the Unicorn Latte. The End began selling the Unicorn Latte in December of 2016, and has had a pending trademark for the drink name since January of 2017. That said, The End isn’t the only small business with a unicorn-inspired drink on their menu. This mythical creature is truly taking the social media world by storm #magic.
The interesting thing about these trends is that companies often leave the marketing up to the consumers. Why dump millions of dollars on social media campaigns when your customers will go online and do it for you? Aside from the initial announcement of the new product, companies get to sit back and watch as we upload endless posts, making their product a desirable fixation.
Take away the sparkles and what are you left with?
As a millennial, I too have developed a love for social media. I’ll even share the occasional photo of decadent cocktails or colorful cuisine that I come across. The one thing I don’t understand is the obsession over these trends, especially when people don’t actually enjoy the product. Most folks who purchased the Unicorn Frappuccino said they didn’t like the taste, claiming it tasted like sour milk.
There’s nothing magical about sour milk. I don’t care how sparkly or mystical it looks, if it tastes like dairy-gone-bad we should be tagging it the #DirtyDonkeyFrappe.
United Airlines issued a report last week outlining changes in policy to prevent another incident like the one that occurred in April. After violently removing a passenger from one of their flights, their response to the situation was less than ideal.
“I breached public trust with this event and how we responded,” Munoz told The Associated Press. “People are upset, and I suspect that there are a lot of people potentially thinking of not flying us.”
United Airlines is finally admitting they didn’t respond effectively to the situation. Earlier, I talked about what this incident can teach us about public relations.
I can’t stop thinking about this situation, though. I want to know why it happened. How it happened.
Between United Airlines and the Kendell Jenner Pepsi Ad, there have been some high profile mishaps in the marketing universe. Pepsi created an ad intending to show they were cutting edge, on the edge of social change. As soon it aired, public outcry demanded it be removed. It was seen as racist, elitist, and everything that is wrong with our society.
I don’t think I’m alone in wondering how they got there. How did the in-house Pepsi team sit in a room and approve that ad? Why did it take United Airlines so very long to realize the error of their ways?
I Have a Theory
Have you ever heard of groupthink? First defined in 1972 by Irving Janis, this communication theory illustrates when a group comes to a unanimous wrong decision despite facts that point to a different outcome. Basically, the group cares more about group cohesiveness, approval, and everyone feeling “good” about the decision and being “right”. Options get overlooked, opinions are left unsaid, and critiques are withheld. This often leads to terrible results – some famous examples include the Challenger disaster and the Bay of Pigs invasion.
I believe groupthink played a large role in both United Airlines and Pepsi’s decision making.
It makes you wonder – are you guilty of groupthink in your organization? What about tunnel vision or having a myopic outlook? All things that work together to create a perfect storm of bad decision making.
Here’s a quick quiz to help you determine if you are guilty of groupthink – answer yes to one of these questions and maybe it’s time to put some preventive measures in place.
- Are people in your organization afraid to offer an alternative opinion that goes against the majority? How do you know that they are not? Do you have anonymous survey data to back that up?
- Do most of your meetings seem very harmonious with absolutely no discussion or disagreement? There can sometimes be too much of a good thing.
- Do you avoid bringing in an outside opinion or perspective? When’s the last time that happened?
- Does the leader of your organization give their opinion before everyone has chimed in?
- Do you assume silence by any member means they agree with the majority?
Why It Matters
In the case of United Airlines and Pepsi, the outcome of their bad decision making has been quite devastating. They are now dealing with the following:
- Dramatic drop of stock prices immediately following the incidents
- Negative publicity
- Demolition of their company image
- Legal ramifications
- Potential loss of future revenue
To grow as an organization, it’s important to take constant stock on both your internal and external communication strategies. Sometimes, that adjustment is a slight pivot, and other times it requires a giant leap in a different direction.
Groupthink has led to some terrible outcomes for companies and consumers. Don’t be the next example of what not to do.