The Twittersphere is a buzz with comments on the tweets put out my @DurexSA last week, which at best were lame and thoughtless and at worst were incredibly insulting to both men and women; and all this on the eve of 16 days of activism against violence towards women and children in South Africa. Bad timing and in bad taste, Durex, I say. The majority of responses on Twitter regarding Durex’s tweets have been negative, expressing sentiments ranging from outrage to just stupidity. There have been some supporting the initiative, stating views ranging from ‘any publicity is good publicity’, ‘Durex now has 2000 Twitter followers’ and ‘this advertising does not solicit rape and violence’ and other such defensive (in my opinion) expressions.

If you have not seen the Tweets and would like to, click here.

Durex has responded to this outcry by (get this) posting more poorly worded, lame and pathetic retorts, with an equally misogynistic undertones. What are they thinking?

They also wrote:

our followers who we engage with regularly loves it & the those who dont, com[p]lain” [sic], and “We have posted many jokes, see our timeline… And they not violent against woman! Re-read it!!!!!” [sic]

In fairness Durex South Africa have subsequently put out statements expressing their heart-felt apologies, but in my view these came a bit late; and no doubt only after they realised that people were serious about their disgust at Durex’s PR company’s insensitivity.

This shall certainly go down as a case study on how not to use social media to promote your brand.

I am all for using social media to promote your brand and I think that in today’s highly competitive and choice-ridden market, why would people engage with your (or your product/ service) let alone stay loyal to it, if they have no idea who you are or what you stand for? Using social media is a fantastic way to:

a) remind people that you exist

b) build ‘real’ and long-lasting relationships with clients/ customers or guests

c) provide valuable extras like industry related information, changes in legislation etc., to show you care

d) let your market know who you really are and what you stand for

e) is a fantastic way to stay in touch with what your market needs and wants

f) is the best way to have a two-way conversation with your market (a must in marketing today)

g) turn bad customer experiences in to really positive ones

Marketing, regardless of your industry, has become a two way conversation. I think historically marketing has been about punting a brand through advertising campaigns, big stories, glossary prospectus and of course word of mouth recommendations.The latter is still the best and most trusted form of marketing, but be warned, with social media, people’s word of mouth has now become world of mouth. In other words, their opinion can now be written down, recorded forever, put out for millions to see (read about) quickly, and there is no big brother monitoring what people say. Also remember, there is very little distinction between fact and information and the majorities opinion being the truth in this space.

I think in a connection economy, where the only differentiating factor is your ability to build relationships with people, social media marketing is a must. However, particularly in professional services, the insurance industry, the banking sector, the security industry; and in education, social media is:

a) a good way to maintain relationships rather than ignite them (although they can be ignited this way) and,

b) your ability to build relationships is the differentiating factor, the fact that you have a good product and provide world-class service should be a given.

However, like everything in life if you are going to do this, do it properly.

You have to live in the social media space for it to be affective. In other words, you have to have an employee who genuinely loves Tweeting if you going to use Twitter, someone who loves writing; and is interested in researching good material to write about, if you are going to Blog. You have to employ somebody who honestly loves Facebook or LinkedIn, or any of the other social media tools, if you are going to have an effective and long-lasting relationships with your market in this space.

In addition to this, whoever is engaging with your market via social media has to understand your brand sufficiently and be able to communicate the sentiments of your brand appropriately. For example, Durex could have had a really successful Twitter campaign had they got somebody to Tweet about the brand cleverly. What does Durex as a brand say to you? Words like cheeky, fun, responsible, mature, sensitive and safety spring to my mind. This is then the message they want to put out there for people to trust in (and therefore want to engage with) their brand. How could one encapsulate the message of responsibility, maturity and safety whilst also providing some fun (in a clever and interesting way)? This is the question the Tweeter should have asked them self. I think most people forgive most things as long as they are cleverly done. Take the Nandos advertising campaign as a good case in point. There is no doubt that it is controversial, but because its clever, most people love it; and it has become a talking point.

My colleague Mike Saunders at TomorrowToday has extensive understanding of using the social media space cleverly, no matter what your brand. He has developed an excellent course called Consumer 2.0. Check it out here if you are interested in finding out more.

So, are you going to use social media effectively or let it trash your brand?




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