The Power Of The Consumer And Social Media

PT Barnum once said, “There is no such thing as bad publicity.” On a side note, who else is excited about The Greatest Showman? Oh, just me…cool.Now, when it comes to creating a circus in the 1919’s that very-well may have been the case. However, we live in an age of instant social media backlash and knowing the fact that the Internet is forever, this may no longer be the case. It is a matter of seconds before a brand finds out when they have taken a misstep in either their advertising or merchandising, and with customers quick to call “boycott”, and social media platforms, such as, Facebook and Twitter driving the conversation, brands have no other choice but to:

  1. Apologize 
  2. Remedy

2017 has offered no shortage of instances where brands have perhaps crossed the line. Take Kellogg’s and their newest design for their cereal box. In a sea of yellow characters, there is one lone brown character. What is said brown character’s occupation? A janitor. Was it likely a harmless oversight? Probably. Does it send a silent but possibly negative message to children? Probably. A blogger was quick to point this issue out and Kellogg’s was quick on the remedy. They apologized, but also reassured customers that the box would be given new creative to replace what many considered to be racially insensitive boxes. Certainly, a costly solution that put a quick end to what could have been a disastrous PR lesson for them. 

Now Dove really stepped in it considering that said ad in question ran on Facebook. This just made the controversy around Dove’s latest campaign a trending topic even faster. In the ad a black woman “transitions” into a white woman. This idea may seem harmless, until you note that the black woman was intended to be the person before using dove (dirty) and the white woman was after using Dove (clean). Facepalm. The outcry was immediate, with many questioning how the ad could have gotten past multiple layers of review. The conversation quickly escalated with social media users posting examples of historical and racially-driven soap advertisements that depicted the same thing. Dove did respond properly by issuing an apology; they pulled the ad and pledged to investigate and review their internal process before developing their next campaign to ensure it didn’t happen again.

On a more local level, a social media friend/fellow mom noticed an offensive t-shirt being sold at our local Nordstrom.  While the shirt was “retro” and off an old song label, it advocated both smoking and “killing my parents” in a teen section of clothing at a high end store.  My friend’s post was shared hundreds of times with people tweeting Nordstroms and calling their local buyers.  Within the same day, Nordstrom had apologized and pulled the shirts.

Whether or not these examples would personally offend you is irrelevant. A consumer’s power is in their dollar and where they spend it. A smart retailer listens to their consumers, weighs the risks and rewards, and no matter what, immediately responds, whether to apologize or explain.  In this day and age of social activism and news spread with the click of a button, to do anything else is simply foolish.