August, 2016
Becoming a brand hero

By Wayne Powell – Strategic Business Development at Mortimer Harvey
As South Africans, there are certain things we unashamedly just love: braais, biltong, boerewors and sport tend to top the list. We also love a good scandal. We seem to be hooked on voting incompetent politicians into power, burning everything in sight when we aren’t happy (see ‘braais’) and, lastly, we really love to complain.

In a country with more SIM cards than toothbrushes, mobile connectivity is a given. The latest statistics tell us we have more than 126% mobile penetration – that means there are more cell phones than people in SA and, with 26 million people connected to the internet, the potential for voicing our opinion has never been greater. And, oh, how we love to voice it.

Being a consumer brand in the age of the internet of things isn’t easy. Our customers are clever. They’re able to browse online, compare and purchase a product in less time than it takes to say ‘pay back the money.’ We’re also among the quickest on the planet to complain, according to the latest industry data.
Capitalise on complaining.

The old saying, ‘we’re only human; we make mistakes’ means nothing when our consumers demand an always-on, always-available brand experience. The reality is that brands do make mistakes, they do get it wrong. I’m not saying that I’ve never complained about poor service myself and I definitely wouldn’t be happy at all if, hypothetically, I found a mouse in my supermarket pie. The truth is that these unfortunate and often unintentional events do happen and, when they do, they afford brands an excellent opportunity to turn hate into heroism by rising to the challenge to become the brand hero.

So, when we have hate for a brand, where do we turn? Social media, baby. Facebook and Twitter are the new ways to make the old ‘call your manager’ demand. If not managed correctly, social media can be one of the biggest external threats a brand can face, but used properly it’s an excellent opportunity for any brand seeking to safely de-mouse that pie.

Some suggestions in managing complaints voiced on social media:

1. Never argue with your public

When something goes wrong DO NOT take an argumentative or defensive stance and block users and repetitive user posts, or even hide any posts for that matter. The customer might have changed the channels they use to complain through, but the customer is still right. Face the fire head-on and try to extinguish as many flames as possible. Be the hero, admit your faults and use the incident as an opportunity to do good. Suffocate them with kindness… the flames, of course. A classic case of #BrandFail would be the infamous social media disaster caused by the American restaurant chain, Applebee’s, where an already inflamed situation playing out over social media was mishandled into becoming a digital disaster. #Cringe

2. Never mix business and personal social media accounts

Ensure your employees keep their personal social media accounts far away from the company’s social media accounts. Don’t get personal and don’t take comments or posts personally. You’re the hero and unhappy Sannie from Fochville is your damsel in distress. It’s your job to save her.

3. Don’t hesitate to blow your own trumpet

Make sure you document your heroism. The complaint is a gifted, potentially positive, PR move waiting to happen – and every move counts. Humour can be used to diffuse the situation, but #PleaseUseWithCaution.
When it comes to fixing your fluff-up, owning your mistake and manipulating content are part of your heroic superpowers. Keep your finger on the pulse when it comes to world events and be able to adapt, change or even cancel your content strategies. Don’t use a hashtag which was meant to raise awareness about a social issue as an angle or a hidden agenda to punt your brand. Research! Understand the context of trends. Understand where a hashtag is coming from and its meaning, so you know why people are pouring buckets of ice over each other’s heads. Lastly, there’s nothing worse than trying to identify with your market and getting it wrong; if you don’t know how to use the meme correctly, then don’t use it at all.

Remember, in a land where complaining is a national sport, rather than responding to complaints as an attack, treat every complaint as an opportunity to create a juicy piece of positive PR. Especially when it’s a juicy mouse in a pie.