As you read this post, please keep this question in mind: If your product really is the best, would you have to malign your competitor or invite your customers to discredit them?
Somewhere along the line of transition from old to new media, some of the worst practices of old media have been perpetuated. Instead of focusing on how to have the best products and services in their category, or better yet, in the world, companies and their ad agencies still knock the competition. That’s the real bottom line on Quiznos 2007 Meat or No Meat online contest that asked the public to create videos that show why Quiznos subs are better than Subway subs.
I don’t eat meat, or wheat and I’ve never had a sub from Quiznos or Subway, so I don’t really know, or care, which one is better. But I do care that – because Subway and Quiznos are squabbling – a court is now going to decide on intellectual property and freedom of speech issues that could limit the public’s right to make videos in which they speak their opinions.
According to Subways’ lawsuit against Quiznos, the legal issue is whether Quiznos should be held responsible for the content of user-generated videos made at its behest.
The real issue is whether corporations and ad agencies understand the Internet, transparency, social networking, or the fact that everyone now has the tools to make his/her opinion heard. Sadly, the answer seems to be no. Both Quiznos and Subway are behaving like dinosaurs. Yet another reason I sometimes despair that social media marketing will ever be understood by suits.
By forcing Quiznos to take down the videos, Subway unwittingly encouraged many of the videos makers to post them on YouTube, where scores can still be seen. Like much user-generated content, most of the contest entries are pretty lame, and all would most likely have been forgotten has it not been for Subway’s lawyers. They should take note of the fact that more people watched videos on YouTube last week than watched the top ten shows on network television.
If Quiznos or Subway wants to create brand evangelists, and good opinions about their sandwiches and their company, they don’t need to knock their competition. Instead, of attacking the competition, they need to make sure their product and service is the best in its class. Make sure the stores are clean, the workers are well-trained and well-treated, keep the bathrooms spotless and maybe put fresh flowers in them (because if the bathroom isn’t clean why would we think the kitchen is?)
Give your sandwiches something your competition doesn’t have – something your customers want. Seth Godin calls that making a Meatball Sundae. Hugh Macleod calls it creating a social object.
And what’s the best way to do that? Ask your customers to tell you what’s good, and bad about your products. Then listen to them and change what they don’t like. And clean the bathroom. Posted by B.L. Ochman