submit to reddit

By B.L. Ochman
Recent social media kerkuffles between Groupon and CP&B; Chrysler and New Media Strategies; and Kenneth Cole’s Tweet about Cairo point to a deeper issue: who do you allow to represent your brand, and how do you train them?

The story of these controversies follows. But here are the lessons for both brands and agencies:

1- Before you put out Tweet One, you need a social media policy to govern who represents the brand and what the rules are. The only rule you really need, in my not so humble opinion, is “never forget that you have a day job.”

2- Twitter is not a marketing strategy. Neither is Facebook. When social media is integrated into he overall marketing strategy – integrated being the key word here – everyone is more likely to understand the brand message.

3- Brands and agencies both need to hone what social media master Howard Rheingold so eloquently calls their “crap detector.”

4- You put a millenial in place as your brand spokesperson, and don’t help that person gain perspective with a whole lot of adult supervision, and you deserve what you get.

5- Everyone really needs to lighten up. Marketing isn’t pediatric brain surgery. There are real problems in the world. People are suffering in Japan, children are starving all over thee globe, crazy people hurt other people every day.

Truly, really, this brand stuff is not such a big deal.

Controversy 1 – Groupon and CP&B – Groupon CEO Andrew Mason told AdAge that the brand has fired the agency, presumably in a delayed reaction over the horrible Super Bowl ads Crispin produced.

Mason said he placed too much trust in the agency “to be edgy, informative and entertaining, and we turned off the part of our brain where we should have made our own decisions. We learned that you can’t rely on anyone else to control and maintain your own brand.”

He apparently forgot to note that he saw and approved the ads before they ran, or that CP&B is known for its edgy, often weird, frequently controversial creative.

Controversy 2 – Chrysler cut ties to a New Media Strategies after one of its employees hit send on the following tweet: “I find it ironic that Detroit is known as the #motorcity and yet no one here knows how to fucking drive.”

The junior employee behind the message, 28-year-old Scott Bartosiewicz, explained that he had meant to send it from his personal account, but clicked the wrong box on his Twitter deck. Chrysler fired the agency.

Self-righteous blog and mainstream media posts immediately responded: thrilled, I’m sure, that they had something controversial to write about besides Tiger Blood.

The only one who got it right, IMO, is the generally contentious Bob Garfield, with whom I’ve had a few rousing arguments :>) Noting that Chrysler employs the notoriously potty-mouthed Eminem to represent its brand, he says “Yeah, what an apostate that Bartosiewicz is. In a city wracked with unemployment, crime, poverty, corruption, racism and intractable urban decay, discussion of driving habits is a blasphemy that takes it too far. And an ad campaign that uses rapper Eminem to personify the city’s raw grit could not possibly make room for a witty molecule of road rage.” I couldn’t have said it better Bob!

Controversy 3 Kenneth Cole, at the height of the Egyptian revolution, Tweeted “Millions are in uproar in #Cairo. Rumor is they heard our new spring collection is now available online at -KC” When an Internet uproar followed, a second Tweet was issued four hours later “Re Egypt tweet: we weren’t intending to make light of a serious situation. We understand the sensitivity of this historic moment -KC”

The offending Tweet was soon deleted, and an apology posted on the brand’s Facebook page: “I apologize to everyone who was offended by my insensitive tweet about the situation in Egypt. I’ve dedicated my life to raising awareness about serious social issues, and in hindsight my attempt at humor regarding a nation liberating themselves against oppression was poorly timed and absolutely inappropriate.
Kenneth Cole, Chairman and Chief Creative Officer

This particular mistake did not appear to have long-lasting impact on the brand, which is known for outrageous advertising and messaging. That may be because an apology was issued quickly, or it may have been luck and timing – two things no brand should depend upon.

The Green Bay Packers also had a Twitter kerkuffle about their team photo for the Super Bowl. Aaron Rodgers put his team’s Twitter-driven mini-controversy to rest, saying, “I think, obviously, this was made a bigger issue than it was….There was nothing going on in Green Bay last week, so this little thing blew up bigger than we ever thought it would.” Amen to that.