PR vs marketing

The US-based app, Buycott, was launched recently and allows users to “boycott” a retail brand. Once you’ve scanned an item, Buycott will then show you the brand’s corporate family tree, and if you don’t like the parent company for whatever reason, you can pick a different brand. The app is currently ranked 10 in the App store, and is getting more than 10 new users every second.

In a twitter conversation, with the person who first tweeted the link, I said I was more afraid of the leaderless, faceless mobs of the twittersphere than of the predictablepower-elite, as I have written previously about the power of social to do harm.

Some examples of community powered change include, The Arab Spring, The Syrian Uprising, Alan Jones, and 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, Myer CEO Bernie Brookes 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 Myer 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 Brooke’s case a fact, that the mob might take offence to.

I have no doubt Brookes supports the NDIS, but supporting the NDIS (or not) was not quite the point. 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, and suppliers etc.

US-based fashion chain, Abercombie & Fitch is another example of how the power of a CEO to make – or break – a brand can never be overestimated – even in an interview that took place seven 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

“It’s not the first time that everyday people all over 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 

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 website dedicated to issues relating to race, and then the online ‘news’ sites including 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. People power, the new social era, has a positive dimension and there are great business models such as Kiva and Kickstarter and, not mention Wikpedia, that all capitalise on this.

On the negative side, there is a risk of mob-mentality. Combine all of this with self-righteousness and half-truths, and 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 instantly.


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You may find it interesting to know how much money you are leaving on the shopfloor.
I reckon: Long Live the Trolls.

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