Posts Tagged 'coffee'

Donuts and the power and peril of social media

Was a time when news, issues, disputes, trends and the like bubbled and percolated before gaining momentum. The world was a seemingly quieter, albeit less informed place. The printing press started us down the path. Skip ahead to Marshall McLuhan and his prognostications about the “global village.” Then Vinton Cerf gives McLuhan’s revolutionary musings a technological boost and voila: paradigm shift (apologies!). How people express themselves and learn is exponentially accelerated.

Which is why Dunkin Donuts and Tim Hortons have been on the online firing line in recent weeks.

Suggestive Starbucks?

A Dunkin Donuts ad campaign featuring celebrity cook/talk show host Rachel Ray wouldn’t appear to be terrorism related. But the speed and reach of social media and can quickly spark enough momentum to influence a company to yank a multi-million-dollar campaign. The charge was led by right-wing pundit and blogger Michelle Malkin, who also supports a group railing against Starbucks for promoting family-friendliness with suggestive photos on their new coffee cups (ed. note: can a mermaid really spread her legs?!)

Society for a Free Timbit!

Coffee and donut shops were taking it on the chin in Canada before that. Tim Horton’s ran afoul when one its overzealous managers fired a part-time employee for giving a 15-cent Timbit (small donut) for free to a child of a regular customer. The blogosphere lit up with complaints and, coincidentally or not, the woman was rehired. Even the re-hiring story posted on Yahoo! Canada recorded thousands more comments.

Advocacy groups for whatever cause — charitable, political, disruptive, you name it — can quickly gain momentum online. Using all the tools of the trade — blogs, discussion forums, wikis — and spreading their gospel through feeds, trackbacks and the like, an otherwise innocuous issue or comment can take on a life of its own.

For organizations or companies, that has ominous implications. Customer complaints or product defects are immediately and widely communicated. That means companies must be monitoring and reacting to online communications before they reach a critical mass.

Consider the opportunities:

  1. Build up some goodwill (that you may need to call upon later) by engaging in ongoing conversations with customers now.
  2. The Internet is one giant focus group. Reach out to customers with new ideas or changes that might help confirm or contradict assumptions in advance of costly product or marketing development.
  3. Just as bad news can spread like wildfire, so can your promotion. Buzz building happens faster and more broadly than ever before. Use it to be pro-active. Or else others may fill the vacuum.