A Case Study of the Pitfalls of Branding with Social Media
Iconic Australian airline Qantas can’t seem to do anything right just now. Hot on the heels of grounding the airline to break-up an industrial dispute and leaving thousands of irate customers in the lurch, Qantas came up with a nice little social media campaign idea to help restore its battered reputation. The thing so many brands continue to fail to grasp is that social media is no free kick. As a channel for communicating with customers, social media interactions follow the same rules as every other human interaction. If it seems like a dumb thing to say to your customer face-to-face, then it’s going to seem just as dumb in social media, only the damage can be a million-fold greater.
The idea seems harmless enough out of context of the airlines last few weeks of brand damaging events;
Just a few of the highlights of the responses included these beauties:
#qantasluxury is chartering a Greyhound bus and arriving at your destination days before your grounded Qantas flight
Not having to worry about the safety demonstration, because you can’t crash if your flight never leaves
#qantasluxury Somewhere in Qantas HQ a middle aged manager is yelling at a Gen Y social media “expert” to make it stop.
As a person who spends much of my life looking at the world through brand coloured glasses, the result was far from unpredictable – as thousands of people took the opportunity to vent their still boiling frustration and negativity with the brand. For me it seemed a bit like staying out all night with the boys before going home to an unimpressed wife, waiting twenty four hours and then asking her to list the top ten things she loves about you. The result in both cases is unlikely to be particularly falttering.
The outflow of negative brand sentiment has been impressive and impressively covered at length on-line. There’s a great account of the social media catastrophe on The Wall, a UK social media marketing blog. You can read it here.
We’re not ones for continuing to bash a brand when it’s down, but the cream on the cake is the reworking of this piece of classic film footage which captures the mood of the public response to this misplaced brand gesture by Qantas.