Are you ready for pain? (Why PR is going to become more important than Marketing)

BUYCOTT (an app) was launched recently that allows users to boycott the retail brand. Once you’ve scanned an item, Buycott will show you its corporate family tree on your phone screen, and if you don’t like the parent company for whatever reason, you can pick a different brand.(I haven’t downloaded the app because the Android app has been withdrawn because of a flaw. (The app is #10 in the App Store overall, and is getting 10+ new users every second. I also presume it is US only at the moment.)

In a twitter conversation, the person who first tweeted the link and I had a conversation, and her point of view was:

ForbesTweet.PNG

And my view is that, yes, I am more afraid of the leaderless, faceless mobs of the twittersphere than of the (predictable) power-elite.

I have written previously about the power of social to do harm. Some examples of community-powered change are:

  • The Arab Spring.
  • The Syrian Uprising
  • Alan Jones
  • Kyle Sandilands

These are all examples of how people power made the ‘authority’ bend the knee to the people.

You may agree or disagree with these ‘causes’, but once the mob had mobilised, there was not stopping it.

Recently there was the example of how Bernie Brookes from Meyer ‘caused a social media stink’ with his comments about the NDIS.

Again, this was a classic case of misguided zeal that led the mob to propose Meyer boycotts. In fact, a local retail consultant actively instigated this initiative under a cloak of self-righteous indignation. Obviously it has now become dangerous to express an opinion, or in Mr Brooke’s case a fact, that the mob might take offense too. I have no doubt Mr Brookes supports the NDIS; as do I and every person who has a heart. Supporting the NDIS (or not) was not quite the point, but the full story cannot always be redacted to 140 characters and reason therefore does not always prevail in a tweet.

(I suppose the point was lost on the ‘consultant-activist’ that such a boycott would actually hurt all the innocent shareholders, employees, suppliers and all their employees and so forth.)

And one more about Abercombie & Fitch to show the power of a CEO to make – or break – a brand can never be overestimated – even in an interview that took place 7 years ago.

(Apparently the mob does not condone target marketing any more.)

And there is more.

Read this story about Global noise and weep I (LINK)

IT’S NOT the first time that everyday people all o

ver the world have decided to reclaim the streets, and it surely won’t be the last. In the face of discontent and apathy about politics – in response to the democratic deficit between citizens, politicians and financial markets – citizens will always look for better alternatives to the existing political structure.

Global Noise is about making ourselves heard. In a democracy, the government should be by the people and for the people. The reality is that we are asked to cast a vote once every three years, watch our elected representatives change all their policies and just shut up. The world is facing a great variety of issues that perpetuate conflict, poverty and political apathy.

Read this and weep II (LINK)

This is the story of how ONE reader sent Victoria’s Secret scurrying for cover.

But because one person was particularly offended by this particular item, and found a ready echo chamber at a web site dedicated to issues relating to race, and then the  online ‘news’ sites like Huffington Post and The Daily Mail reported it as a controversy, the product disappeared from Victoria Secret’s site.

That’s not evidence of peer-to-peer collaboration or effecting meaningful change in the world, is it?

Most brands are realizing that there’s someone out in the ethersphere who will be offended by something it does. Online tech gives everyone a soapbox (again, I’m all for it) and makes anyone a potential rabble-rouser. And then it stops…right there…since very few people are actually equipped to propose real things, inspired to lead one another, or willing to take the time and effort effecting real change takes.

Still, so much marketing gets away with selling us impossible ideals of beauty, happiness, and success, even in 2013.

Corporations and governments should be scared shitless of the day when we of the huddled masses figure out that we can use the Internet to change the things they offer us.

These words are going to prove prophetic indeed. And all people (not only early adopters) will eventually realise the power they have.

Whilst we recognise in principle that power is being returned to the people – the wildcard in all of this is technology.

It will amplify the trends and consequently the potential to do good and the potential to do harm.

Conclusion

People power (the new social era) has positive dimension and there are great business models like  KIVA  and  KICKSTARTER and not mention Wikpedia that capitalise on this.

On the negative side, there is a risk of mob-mentality and combine this with self-righteousness and half-truths, you have a cocktail for disaster.

And the mob will come for you at some stage. The little guys may only warrant little mobs, but don’t bank on that. The main thing is whether you are prepared for the inevitable; because the full force of these faceless masses unleashed on a business can be sufficient to spell the end of your business. You better have a social-savvy PR firm on your side to help you navigate.

Good marketing will slowly build your business. Bad PR will destroy it all instantly.

And finally, which is why I reckon: Long Live the Trolls. (Eventually they will help save the self-righteous mob from itself.)

Dennis Price

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