Tag Archives: consumer-brand interaction

It’s all fun and games until someone gets iced…

Although a number of high-profile companies have had success with user-generated content, it is not irrational to fear that these types of messages could damage brand equity. Inconsistencies in the way consumers portray the brand and how the company strives to portray the brand can create tension and ultimately degrade the company’s reputation in the market. Companies that invite users to create content can take steps to protect themselves to a certain extent, but what happens when consumers take it upon themselves to start the conversation?

Smirnoff faced this dilemma in the early summer of 2010 when it discovered a drinking game website based around its malt beverage, Smirnoff Ice. The game challenged ‘bros’ to punk their friends by presenting them a Smirnoff Ice, which they then had to chug while taking a knee. At first, consumers thought it was a clever marketing campaign gone viral – until the website mysteriously shut down, leaving its fans with the message ‘We had a good run bros.’

Smirnoff’s parent company, Diageo, eventually responded in an article to AdAge, saying “Diageo has taken measures to stop this misuse of its Smirnoff Ice brand and marks, and to make it clear that ‘icing’ does not comply with our marketing code, and was not created or promoted by Diageo, Smirnoff Ice, or anyone associated with Diageo.”

Consumers responded in droves, slamming Smirnoff Ice for shutting down the site and discouraging consumers from having fun with the product.  Besides expressing disappointment, most comments had a common thread; they thought Smirnoff had made a big mistake.

“I think it’s a bad move on Smirnoffs part to just take down the site. I understand they don’t want any liability associated with irresponsible drinking behavior, but honestly, this site created some sort of dialogue for Smirnoff within a group that probably wouldn’t have even touched the stuff prior to the site. Most of the guys I know have heard of the site, think its funny, have participated.”

“This is just stupid on Diageo’s part, both from a business standpoint and branding standpoint. The only people that drink Smirnoff Ice are younger consumers that have nothing but love for brosicingbros.com.

I went into a liquor store a week ago and bought a sixer to ice some bros on my kickball team. I asked how smirnoff ice sales were. The owner said they had skyrocketed.  Money is money. Smirnoff ice is a goofy brand to start. They have been trying to sell the stuff to guys from the start. This is a win-win.  Mike’s hard lemonade……here’s your window bros!”

This highlights a key issue in the user-generated content debate: should companies let consumers own the brand, even when it doesn’t go along with their strategy?  There’s no clear-cut answer to this, but in the next post I’ll discuss some guidelines that can help brands decide how to best address unexpected user-generated content, whether it results from a sponsored marketing campaign or a consumer’s spontaneous creativity.

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The Digital Consumer-Brand Gap

Digital media has opened up endless possibilities for involving consumers through new channels. Brands can touch consumers wherever they are, whenever they’re online.The challenge lies in leveraging these media to create a mutually involved consumer-brand relationship. Too often, brands distribute traditionally formatted messages through digital media. This creates a disconnect between how brands use social media and how users consume information on digital media.  This can explain the current irrelevance of most brands in the digital world.

A study released by 360i highlights how most brands are speaking in a language foreign to the digital sphere. Although expansive possibilities for consumer-brand conversations exist, most brands still talk at people.

Don't shout!

They take a traditional media approach by simply passing along information, instead of connecting with consumers in a meaningful way.  A dissection of consumer-brand interactions on Twitter reveals how irrelevant most brands truly are:

  • 43% of consumer tweets are conversational (@replies to other users)
  • Only 12% of all marketer tweets show active dialogue with consumers
  • Only 1% of consumer tweets that mention a brand are part of a conversation with that brand

In the words of Nigel Carr, “the measure of communication lies with consumers; they are the ones who will notice or not, become involved or not.” Messages in the digital realm don’t need to be more informative, persuasive or believable. Instead, they need to be more noticeable, more relevant, more involving and more effective (Goldman, 1995).

Conversation is remarkable!As advertisers, it is our responsibility to utilize digital channels in ways that are cognizant of consumers’ usage habits. We must understand how consumers use digital channels, how they consume information and what content is most relevant in a digital format.  My next series of posts will examine how advertisers can better develop remarkable digital messages, as well as how brands must evolve to maintain relevance on digital media.

360i. (2010). Twitter & the Consumer-Marketer Dynamic [White paper]. Retrieved from http://ht.ly/2hkb3.

Goldman, Debra. (1995, April 10). The Species. ADWEEK, 31-21.