11 02 2012
Brand Manager’s Biggest Concern on Internet: Negative Word of Mouth
The biggest fear of brand managers and marketers is about the negative word, which can freely float around the brands on Internet. They fear negative word may get initiated not only by consumers, but also by their competition. Non of the Brand Managers wants to boldly face the negative word around their brand. They think that it is suicidal and their brand will collapse due to negative words on Internet.
I feel this apprehension of marketers is baseless. To me, “Negative Word” is a great opportunity to build credibility around the brands.
I don’t buy the point that a company will get involved in initiating negative word to damage their competitor’s reputation. Initiating a negative word for their competition, comes at huge risk of damaging own reputation for the company, if they get exposed. Also current cyber laws provides enough protection. Also in current competitive scenario, ethical companies likes to focus and concentrate on their own strategies and plays on own strengths, rather than wondering and bothering about competitors beyond a point and getting involved in initiative negative marketing to kill the competition.
As far consumer led negative word is concerned this fear of Brand Managers is legitimate, provided the same gets going unnoticed. In my experience, when a consumer posts anything negative or a complaint on internet, he actually wants someone to listen his/ her complaint or grievance. Frustration of consumer/s is one of the the key reason of origination of a negative post on Internet. Negative post of a consumer only gets spread; when no one from brand side raises a hand that the consumer voice is being heard and show some empathy to consumer complaint. This is the point where other readers of the post, sees this as unconcerned attitude of manufacturer and start commenting on/ circulating the original post. Almost all the negative viral on Internet around a brand started due to lack of empathy of brand custodians or companies to consumer. Most spread controversy around Nikon, PepsiCo or Nestlé may be few examples of the same.
These all controversies, could have been averted, if someone from brand side had just assured customer in first instant that they are being heard and someone is interested in resolving their problem or to explain the reasons. Consumer thinks that company is ducking by refusing to service him and company keeps thinking that what others will feel if I accept shortcomings in my service offering in public forum on Internet, not realising that their silence will only add to the frustrations of consumer and also that more and more voices will add with one consumer complaint.
I operate a Facebook page of HomeTesterClub.com with more than 12,000 LIKES and at any point of time on an average 1,400 to 2,200 people talks about the page. When we introduced this Facebook page most registrants were skeptical that whether our company will provide Free Products for Testing and Review? Consumers started posting on page – “no one sends free product for nothing, my courier did not arrived, product box was delivered empty, products were damage, I only got one box etc.” But we ensured that every time a consumer comment was posted on our Facebook Page, we not only reacted on Facebook page with a firm answers (mostly of which were not positive in consumer’s favor) but if needed, never hesitated in writing an email or make a telephone call to concerned consumer. We also posted on our Facebook page details of the efforts which we made to resolve the consumer’s complaint. Consumers perception soon changed and dramatically for good. Today, if any consumer post a negative word about HomeTesterClub, before our team is able to react, many other active consumers on page, immediately comes in our support reacting: “HomeTesterClub never does this, please write to them and you will get a satisfactory response.” I guess that such support coming from consumers is GOLD for us and helping us in building a TRUSTWORTHY and LASTING relation with our customers.
To make their brands successful of web, Brand Managers needs to get in to the shoe of Customer Support Manager. Brand Communication on web need to be integrated with strong Customer Service backup to handle the consumers complaints, which gets posted on multiple websites and forums. Brand Managers need to monitor all the websites and forums where consumers can raise their concerns. Once a consumer complaint gets posted on any website, brand team should promptly react to consumer grievances. Reaction of brands to such posts need not to provide a spontaneous solution, but it can be only be an acknowledgment that they Brand/ Company is present and will get back to consumer with a proper response soon. And company must address the problem with full seriousness.
This will surly help Brand Managers to build a strong imagery and credibility for their Brands and a lasting bonding with their consumer. A satisfied customer will certainly get converted to Brand Advocate. A first step towards Brand Advocacy.