‘Tis the season for controversy. The TICL reality show “All-American Muslim” is garnering a lot of it, and the brands that have decided to pull all advertising from the show are taking the brunt. Lowe’s pulled all advertising last week, as we mentioned in an earlier article, and this week the travel website Kayak has pulled advertising as well. When you advertise during a specific show it says something about your brand, but when you pull advertising from that show is says something completely different. What message are you sending to your audience?
“Lowe’s in Facebook Hell as Racist Comments Pile Up”
That was the headline on AdWeek.com a few days ago. Pretty clear, right? We touched on the subject of Lowe’s and Facebook brand reputation management the other day, but in light of some new information I’d like to take another look at how pulling an ad from a controversial TV show can change your entire brand.
“Should Lowe's need a crowbar to pull its head out of the sand, it can find one in its own aisles. On Saturday, the home-improvement company posted a note to Facebook explaining its decision to capitulate to an email campaign by the Florida Family Association and pull its ads from the TLC reality show All-American Muslim. As of this writing, the post has drawn more than 22,000 comments, a significant portion of which are racist and contain anti-Muslim/anti-Islamic hate speech. (Scroll down to see some of them.) So, why isn't Lowe's moderating its Facebook wall?”
Social media can be your best friend or worst enemy. In this case, Facebook is Lowe’s worst enemy as they are failing miserably on all marketing fronts. When a company’s brand reputation is on the line, it is that company’s responsibility to ‘get back on message,’ as the politicians like to say when their reputation is on the line. One of the most effective ways to repair brand reputation is through social media interaction with both negative and positive fans.
“Josh Bernoff, senior vp of idea development at Forrester Research and co-author of Groundswell and Empowered, says Lowe's has made several strategic errors throughout this ordeal. First was the decision to pull the ads. Now, he says, it's compounding the problem by responding only to press questions and remaining mute in social media.”
One of the most effective ways to crush your brand reputation is to remain silent as social media discussions grow out of control. Instead of responsibly responding with a consistent message, by not responding you are allowing the audience to create a new brand message for you, putting words into your mouth.
Update: After Taking More Heat
After marketing and advertising experts had a field day with the way that Lowe’s was handling it’s social media reputation efforts, Lowe’s took down the status update that received over 22,000 unmonitored comments and replaced it with a new one. And again, Lowe’s has failed in understanding the power of social media. The damage has been done. Simply erasing the comments in hopes that they won’t exist anymore only amplifies the brand reputation problem.