2015 was just like any other year for online reputation management in the country. Many a goof-up, many a brand not admitting to their grave mistakes, and worse – taking their own sweet time to respond. Brands often forget that consumers come first in any communication crisis; and a clear, quick response can make or break their brand in this digital and mobile-driven age.
We revisited some of the major ORM stories we covered last year, only to realize that the ground reality is still not very good. Brand managers and other custodians of the brand’s image are still not taking ORM seriously. They don’t have a standard operating procedure in place, in case a crisis strikes; they are still slow to respond and often not equipped with the right knowledge about the PR disaster at hand.
2015 has brought us some cool instances of ORM, by which we can have takeaways, both what to do and what not to do when your brand’s reputation is at stake. Let’s take a look:
Back in January 2015, a lady shared a Facebook post detailing a sad encounter she had at one of McDonald’s outlets in Pune. The staff had thrown out a poor kid she had brought in to buy him a Fanta Float, reasoning, “these kind of people are not allowed inside the outlet.” McDonalds was quick to respond; it defended itself rather feebly by saying there had been a bombing incident earlier.
Reddit, The Logical Indian and many more picked up the story, the burger joint was left red-faced. It was forced to go on fire-fighting mode then: An update informed that appropriate action will be taken and staff will be retrained. Too late in ORM!
Both ecommerce giants are up in arms to get at Indian e-shoppers, but when it comes to their persona on social media, there’s lots to learn from the two. This February, someone got the perfect click: an Amazon delivery box lying beside a Flipkart office counter. Reddit picked it up, tagged both brands and the picture began going viral.
Flipkart got all cheeky in its response, calling the Amazon box as its dustbin. But, Amazon made a graceful move, it said there’s a bit of Amazon in every ecommerce company. Amazon garnered positive approvals for its graceful handling, while Flipkart had to bow down. Brands, be careful what you tweet about your competitor.
In February, Air India did not let a passenger board her flight as she was late for check-in. Someone shot a video of the incident and uploaded it on Facebook. The video quickly went viral while Air India was caught unawares. Later it issued an unapologetic response and the no response at all.
Brand image experts have shared time and again how a quick and clear response is the need of the day. Air India staffers were only following the rules, had they been clear in addressing that, within a faster response time, things wouldn’t have spiralled out of control. Listen, be quick in action and clear in communication are surely the new rules of engagement.
In March 2015, branded hotel chain, OYO Rooms used the brand name of Stayzilla, a competitor in its Google AdWords copy, which is a clear case of trademark violation. Stayzilla decided to get even on Twitter by confronting with a screenshot of the ad, OYO had to respond: it tried to buy time.
In the mean time, Stayzilla came up with its arsenal of #OYoMama memes, as a small punishment to Oyo. OYO tried to play it cool but the wit was too much for it to combat. The tweets fired from both brands in full public view, made for an embarrassing scene for OYO but Stayzilla scored as the cool one on social media. Don’t violate trademarks, and if caught, accept with grace and quickly get into repair/ damage control mode.
Back in March, Nipun Malhotra, the co-founder of the Nipman Foundation and a physically challenged activist was denied entry at Keya, a restaurant in Delhi. The security told him they don’t allow people on wheelchair as a policy. Nipun took to Twitter to share this incident and soon the hashtag #ShameOnKeya began trending.
Keya wasn’t on Twitter, it created a new account just to clarify its stand. It said Nipun was denied entry not because of his wheelchair but because he was part of a stag group! The incident spiralled further while the Delhi CM promised to look into the issue. Keya is a classic case of bad ORM where fire fighting solutions were being implemented when the house was already on fire!
Kalyan Jewellers put a full-page advertisement on a leading newspaper featuring its brand ambassador, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan as this royal lady with a ‘slave child’ holding an umbrella over her. Child rights activists and others were offended enough to write an open letter to the jewellery brand and Aishwarya. Both of them began trending.
Both parties denied that they had made a grave mistake. Kalyan Jewellers stated that it will withdraw the ad, while Aishwarya’s publicist chose to blame the ad creators. A conditional apology was also made, “if we have inadvertently hurt the sentiments of any individual or organisation, we deeply regret the same.” An apology must be heartfelt, without conditions and make up for the harm done.
When OYO Rooms was launching its mobile app, Zo Rooms, a competitor put up billboards and standees to convey some cheeky compliments to Oyo. Oyo took to Twitter to troll Zo along with an army of supporters, who began the trolling by sharing cheeky visuals taking a jibe at Zo, The hashtag #OyoLovesTrolls began trending and by the end of the day, OYO claimed to have got 30K downloads. Don’t indulge in ambush marketing, else be prepared for consequences on social media.
Instant noodle brand Maggi is a much loved brand in India and is also an active one on social media. But, when faced with a calamity, it chose to go robotic. When news about the MSG and lead created a scary buzz, the brand was only giving away auto responses to those who expressed their concern on social media. It was only after it faced a ban that some seriousness was instilled into its ORM.
Maggi shared updates about the ban status on its social media properties, while making a soft comeback with emotional videos. A series of films tried to reflect consumer opinion: We miss you Maggi. When they cleared a second lab test, the CMD of Nestle India shared his happiness on Twitter. Keep consumers first always, address them as humans, have an authoritative face to the communication, and you are good to start with ORM.
Gaana.com was hacked by a Pakistani hacker in May 2015 sending a lot of panic among users’ data concerns. But, CEO Satyan Gajwani handled the crisis perfectly before matters could spiral further. The hacker had been reaching out to the Gaana website folks about a vulnerability several times earlier, but they did nothing about it, compelling him to prove it his way.
Satyan Gajwani took to Twitter immediately, he acknowledged that the hack has indeed taken place but ensured users that sensitive data has not been accessed. He informed about the measures taken by Gaana and while at it also conversed with many users expressing their concern. What’s more: he invited Mak Man to be a consultant for Gaana and help resolve all its vulnerabilities! All ORM switches on!
Dineout is India’s first table reservation service founded in 2012, that was acquired by TimesCity, Times Internet’s restaurant listing service in April 2014. But, in an interview to the press, Zomato – the restaurant review site that had also just entered the space of table bookings – claimed to be the first in this space. Dineout sent an open letter to Zomato on Twitter. Zomato found that cute, while both the CEOs got into a not-so-friendly exchange on Twitter. Be careful with your claims, don’t be cheeky when you are in the wrong.
When Amul’s slice of life digital film was rolled out in September 2015, it was accused of promoting ‘gender stereotype’. The idea behind a slice of life digital film is to showcase how Amul is a part of every Indian home. The film depicted dolls are for girls and cricket is for boys. Despite receiving flak on social media, the MD denied anything was wrong with the film – “There are always some people who will like it and some who won’t,” he reasoned.
Later another statement was released clarifying the brand’s intent and its belief in women empowerment. The MD then said he appreciated consumers’ feedback. Amul accepted its mistake but not at once. Soon, it rolled out a video raising a glass to India’s woman power. Acknowledge, admit and apologize while you can.
Back in November, Snapdeal’s brand ambassador Aamir Khan made remarks on the growing intolerance in India. While the actor faced brickbats, Snapdeal faced the wrath of social media – angry people uninstalled its app and lowered its ratings. They also demanded the brand remove Aamir as brand ambassador.
Snapdeal responded after a day that Aamir’s statements were made in his personal capacity and the brand isn’t connected in any way. The CEO, Twitter influencers and others then got into a hashtag trending spree with #SnapdealForIndia. Everybody tweeted how Snapdeal is a great Indian brand taking our country to new heights. Someone even shared a copy of the mail sent to influencers with the kind of tweets they needed to share. Be real, you can’t build positive sentiments all via a doctored hashtag.