Bullet Proof Vest In The Wild West

There’s a lot of hombres with itchy trigger fingers in the ‘Wild West’. With the level of instability in the world being fuelled even further with the inauguration of President Trump, it’s looking like the ‘Wild West’ out there for brands. These days, the population is engaged and enraged on all manner of issues.  They are ready through digital protest to voice their opinions.  All it takes is a hashtag to bring change and there’s a lot of people who understand the power they have, and they ain’t afraid to use it.

The most recent example is the #DeleteUber campaign which sprung up once people thought Uber was profiting from the immigration ban.  Cab drivers at JFK airport had gone on strike in a show of solidarity towards those impacted by the Executive Order whereas Uber continued to operate. Within hours, #DeleteUber was trending – demanding users remove Uber from their phone as a protest of this alleged profiteering. By the time Uber CEO Travis Kalanick had rebuked the claims as false, the groundswell was so huge that his message was ignored, diluted and not heard. As one commentator put it, the lies were half way down the street before the truth had even put its pants on.

Lyft, Uber’s main challenger, was the benefactor of this campaign; an alternative hashtag #DownlandLyft was started just as an extra dagger for Uber. Lyft downloads surpassed Uber’s for the first time ever this week.

As a brand, what hope do you have against the angry masses and their itchy trigger fingers?

First, your social media manager will tell you to have a plan that can be implemented quickly should anything happen which may impact upon your brand’s reputation. Don’t think on the fly and when under pressure, have contingencies in place.

Use your advocates. Hopefully there are a group of consumers who will stand by you in the tough times. Get your message to them via the most personal manner you can and allow them to spread this message quickly and easily so that it travels through their networks.

And perhaps the most difficult; don’t get your brand into a position to be harmed in the first place. For Uber’s example; while some may call it tall poppy syndrome, the company has a history of making questionable moves in the pursuit of profit. Don’t give people the ammunition they need to start campaigns against your brand. Monitor the sentiment towards your brand and be in a position to understand any negativity and make a change. Brand Tracking and Brand Equity studies are a key strategy to establish a brand’s position in the marketplace.

At The Interpreters we design brand tracking and equity studies that go beyond just a review of what people think at a point in time. We take a much more dynamic approach and incorporate a deeper understanding through a combination of data analysis and qualitative feedback (‘the voice of the customer’), to establish the causes of any shifts in Brand Health. Think of it as the bullet proof vest to help protect your brand from all those nasty hombres.

By Chris Binney

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