April 11, 2013

Brandemix Bonus Reel: Authentic Employer Branding

How can a company offer an authentic employer brand even during negative publicity? Director of Interactive Branding Jason Ginsburg shows how it’s done.

February 20, 2013

Brandemix Bonus Reel: Hack Me If You Can

Director of Interactive Branding Jason Ginsburg explains what Jeep and Burger King did right — and wrong — during and after their Twitter hacks.

December 3, 2012

Four Steps to a Successful Rebranding

You’ve read my blog post “Four Signs You’re Ready to Rebrand” and realized it’s time for a rebranding. Now what?
It’s important to have a well-executed, well-timed strategy that generates the most buzz from all audiences – both internally externally. A bad launch can undo much of the hard work you put into the rebranding itself.
Here are four steps to ensure your rebranding is successful.
1. Announce the Change
Every one of your channels and materials should announce the new name, logo, focus, or services. That includes your website, your email signatures, your newsletter, and your blog. Make it clear that your operations won’t be interrupted and that current customers have nothing to worry about. Give a link or email address where customers can ask questions.

I also recommend a press release distributed through PR Newswire or free services like Online PR News and Newswire Today. Here you can go into more detail about the how and why of the rebranding. Accentuate the positive and promise there will be no problems with customer service or product offerings. Include quotes from your CEO. And press releases are great for SEO – especially if you’re changing or adding keywords to your brand.

2. Change Your Social Media
If you’re rebranding is just in the form of a new logo and tagline, it’s pretty easy to change your social channels’ profile pictures, icons, and “About Us” copy. But if you changed your name or even your focus, get ready for more of an overhaul.
You can change your Twitter name at anytime, but your Facebook Page URL can only be changed if you have less than 100 likes. You can request a change from Facebook directly or simply create a new Page, encouraging your fans to follow you there. Then taper off your posting on the original Page.
As for YouTube, don’t worry about uploading all your videos to a new account. Though you can’t change your username, you can create a vanity URL that directs viewers to your original YouTube channel. Personal Pinterest usernames and Google+ names can be changed with only a few clicks. The hardest site to alter your name? LinkedIn, which requires a special email request.

A great example of a blog post explaining a company’s rebranding
3. Make Corrections in the Field
Personally inform any blogs or publications that have covered you or listed you of the rebranding.
Do a search for your brand. If you see it mentioned in a blog or message board, write a comment that notifies readers of the rebranding. It can be as simple as “Kentucky Fried Chicken is now KFC.” Informative without being too promotional.
In fact, you can even enlist your employees. We once worked with a major financial client that held a contest, giving a prize to any worker who found an example of its old logo anywhere on its websites.
4. Do a Final Sweep
Make sure your partners, clients, and vendors are aware of the change and have your new branding on all their materials. Shut down or redirect any legacy sites or links that may confuse your customers. Make sure your Google AdWords or Facebook Ads accounts have your new keywords. Search several pages deep into search engines to see if there’s any website you missed.
Of course, there’s always a small chance that the public won’t respond to your new branding. Look at what happened when the Gap changed its logo. The same thing is happening to JCPenney – but the Gap had the sense and humility to switch back  
As our name implies, Brandemix specializes in branding, rebranding, and employer branding. If the process seems overwhelming, or you’re ready for a major change, we’d love to get into the mix!

February 20, 2012

Social Media PR Disasters: #McDStories

This PR crisis may have come and gone within a few hours, but it’s still important. Why? Because it happened to McDonald’s, the sixth most valuable brand in the world. The story demonstrates that no one, not even a global restaurant giant, can control conversations on the internet.

The Brand
·      14 million Facebook likes
·      294,000 Twitter followers
·      3.4 million YouTube views
The Incident
McDonald’s had been running an effective Twitter series called #MeetTheFarmers, where actual suppliers talked about their pride in their work and loyalty to the Golden Arches. These were “promoted tweets,” paid by McDonald’s to appear on the Twitter homepage. One tweet, quoting a farmer, included a new hashtag: “ ‘When u make something w/pride, people can taste it,’ – McD potato supplier #McDStories.” That hashtag also appeared via paid promotion on the Twitter homepage. But the company never defined what #McDStories was suppose to mean. Enter McDonald’s critics – and apparently there are a lot of them.
The Problem
People quickly began recounting their bad experiences with McDonald’s and tagging it with #McDStories. The restaurant’s own content was buried tweets referring to food poisoning, vomiting, and weight gain. “Fingernail in my Big Mac once,” read one tweet. “Never ate there again and became a vegetarian,” read another. “These #McDStories never get old, kinda like a box of McDonald’s 10 piece Chicken McNuggets left out in the sun for a week,” read a third.
The Response
McDonald’s pulled the promoted tweet within two hours. Social Media Director Rick Wion released a statement that included, “With all social media campaigns, we include contingency plans should the conversation not go as planned. The ability to change midstream helped this small blip from becoming something larger.” Wion pointed out that there were around 1,600 negative tweets about McDonald’s that day, out of almost 73,000 total mentions, putting the “disaster” in some perspective.

The Result
Though the crisis only lasted for a few hours, media outlets from the Los Angeles Times to London’s Daily Mail, jumped on the story of such a high-profile PR failure. I find it interesting that McDonald’s #MeetTheFarmers hashtag was untouched in all the madness. A few days later, McDonald’s launched another promoted hashtag, #LittleThings, apparently unaware that it was already being used by DoubleTree Hotels.

The Takeaway
Sure, you’re no McDonald’s. Still – how can you avoid a similar PR disaster?
– Focus on Your Fans
McDonald’s promoted #McDStories to the entire internet, inviting anyone who visited the Twitter homepage to post their thoughts. While I admire this, there’s no reason the company couldn’t have simply used the hashtag in tweets to its almost 300,000 followers. That audience would have been more likely to share positive stories.
– Manage the Message
McDonald’s second mistake was introducing the #McDStories hashtag without any explanation, and leaving the meaning vague. I bet just about everyone in the world has had an experience with the restaurant, and some of them are bound to be bad. On the other hand, #MeetTheFarmers is very clearly defined, even to the point that it doesn’t really invite people to use it. How many people know the McDonald’s farmers?

– Know When to Fold ‘Em
McDonald’s could have tried to steer the conversation, allowing the hashtag to continue for hours or even days. Social Media Director Wion saw that, while #MeetTheFarmers was getting the company’s message across, McDonald’s was paying for people to publicly criticize its brand. And there was no dignified way to explain what #McDStories was intended to mean. Rather than fight a high-profile, losing battle, Wion made the right call and chose to end the campaign.

While this crisis is over, it goes to show that social media PR disasters can happen anywhere, at anytime, for any reason. Whose hashtag will be next?

For the latest on social media, online recruiting, mobile marketing, and other branding trends, please like Brandemix on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and join our LinkedIn group, Your Digital Brand.

October 31, 2011

Social Media PR Disasters: Moleksine’s Logo Contest Has No Winners

Unlike some of my past examples of social media crises, this disaster is unfolding right now. To my amazement, it’s happening to one of the brands that, just three months ago, I honored as a SoMe Superstar. Let’s see how the mighty have fallen.
The Brand
  • 102,000 Facebook likes
  • 14,000 followers on Twitter
  • 571,000 views on YouTube

The Incident

Through its encouragement via social media, the Italy-based maker of journals and notebooks had built a loyal fan base of writers and artists, eager to share their work and their love of the brand. This combination of brand affinity and design skills seemed to make a perfect environment for a design contest. So on October 10, 2011, Moleskine announced a competition for a new logo. The winner would receive 5,000 euro (about $7,000), but Moleskine would retain the rights to all the entries, allowing it to choose a different logo in the future.

The Problem

While many brands find success with similar contests, such as Doritos asking for fans to create Super Bowl commercials, Moleskine didn’t seem to realize that spec work is a contentious issue in the design community, even more so in this difficult economy. And this competition was definitely spec work, since thousands of designers who didn’t win would be working for free and giving up their copyrights. Moleskine was essentially asking its fans to do their regular 9-to-5 work, for free. Even worse, the contest “devalue[d] the role of the designer and the client-designer relationship,” said ad agency New Kind in a post titledBetrayed by the Brand. “When a company runs a contest like this, it sends a message that a brand is little more than a logo…that can be designed by anyone regardless of their level of knowledge of you and your brand.”
The Response
The backlash was immediate and fierce. Comments on Moleskine’s Facebook wall included “This is unethical,” “Shame on you, Moleskine,” and “I will never buy another Moleskine product again.” On Friday, Moleskine made matters worse by issuing a clarification, without apologizing, that basically said, “Other companies are doing this. If you don’t like it, don’t enter.” As you can imagine, the fans became outraged, to the point that Moleskine began deleting angry comments from the wall. The following Monday, Moleskine posted another response, which began, “Let’s start by apologizing for being so late with our reply” – though fans weren’t complaining about punctuality. The post went on to say “It has never been our purpose to exploit any of the authors” and “we made a mistake.” But Moleskine’s only action was to change a single contest rule, saying it would retain the copyright of just the winner, instead of all the entries. The competition would go on, without apology.
The Result
The competition’s deadline is November 10, and Moleskine seems to have no intention of canceling its inexpensive crowdsourcing strategy and hiring a professional designer. As one commenter put it, “I don’t see how someone would actually desire to win this ‘contest’ now. You would certainly not be well-received in the design community.” The backlash continues on Twitter and the Moleskine official site.

The Takeaway

How can you avoid Moleskine’s week of disastrous social media PR?
– Know Your Audience
Moleskine knew it had a following of artists but it didn’t seem to know that community’s harsh feelings towards crowdsourcing and spec work. While this attitude wouldn’t necessarily come up in a customer survey, Moleskine has multiple channels where it could have tested the waters. One tweet like “How would you feel about a logo design contest?” could have shown the notebook company that its fan base was against the idea, avoiding this social media disaster with one click.
– Fix The Problem
The company’s responses have been consistently unsatisfying. For five days, Moleskine did nothing. Then it offered a brusque statement that showed no compromise or remorse. Instead of engaging the commenters, it never mentioned the matter on Twitter and began deleting critical comments on Facebook. Finally, it posted a semi-apology and changed one contest rule, never addressing the issue of the contest itself. That latest post has 71 comments, but Moleskine itself hasn’t entered the conversation.
– Friends Can Become Foes
Hell hath no fury like a fan scorned. Moleskine had built a passionate audience…but that passion is now aimed against the brand. Just because people love you doesn’t mean that they’ll love everything you do. Moleskine fans feel truly betrayed. The latest posts on Facebook talk seriously about a boycott, with commenters promoting notebooks from Moleskine competitors Piccadillyand Canson. Still, Moleskine remains silent.
Can Moleskine win back its fans? If the contest goes on, how will the fans treat the winner? How did a company with so many active social media channels fail at all of them at once? The fallout from this social media PR disaster should be very interesting.
For the latest on social media, online recruiting, mobile marketing, and other branding trends, please like BRANDEMiX on Facebookfollow us on Twitter, and join our LinkedIn group, Your Digital Brand.