5 things brands can learn from the Bieber debacle

Come on, you all knew this was coming.

It has not been a good few days for the global superstar. Where do we begin?

The #BieberBacklash (yes, that’s actually a hashtag) began when he had the ‘worst birthday‘ after being ejected from a London club for allegedly smuggling underage fans/guests through the door.

It’s a tough life, right? #BieberProblems.

Then, over the weekend, a seemingly innocuous tweet kicked off a fracas after Beiber RT’d a (SHOCK HORROR) a non-fan for saying she liked his new album.

The  Drum reports:

‘A succession of embittered fans jealous that their idol had deigned to retweet someone other than themselves who wasn’t a ‘real’ fan duly emerged with a series of hate filled tweets; including @julietesqueda who wrote: ‘Not really a fan of Justin Bieber but his acoustic album is really good!’’

Finally, last night, the Biebs was not one but two hours late arriving on stage on the opening night of his four day stint at the O2 . On a schoool night too? Never. Never say never. 

But OK, let’s look at this properly – what can brands learn from this?

1. Think before you Tweet
A few years ago, an agency head got into trouble after being somewhat unkind about the city where his main client was based. A silly error and, looking back through the mist of social media evolution, it seems like it’s a mistake of days gone by. But still, the lesson stands true: think before you tweet and never, ever tweet angry.

2. Reward existing fans, as well as new ones
Advocacy is everything. And, as innocent as it is to celebrate the acquisition of a new fan, treating all others in the same way will reap the benefits in the long term. In short: existing customers matter. Many service providers have got into the habit of offering their latest and best promotions (or at least deals of equal value) to both sets of customers. In future, Bieber might do too.

Sidenote: see also the death of ‘Our 2000th follower wins X!’ competitions. If you see this in action, call it out!  Why would anyone want to reward this brand new person when the 1999 have been supporting your growth along the way? It doesn’t make sense.

3. Know your audience
Whenever you kick off ANY kind of social media activity it is essential you understake a number of listening exercises to not only understand the current landscape of the market you’re working in but to also understand your audience. If Bieber had any insight – or had done any research – he would’ve known the following:

  • Monday night is a school night yo!
  • Travelling in (and out of) London late at night isn’t a fantastic experience (especially for young kids)
  • If he didn’t hear the boos from his dressing room then he certainly should/could have read about their disappointment online

4. Under-promise, over-deliver
Keeping your brand promises my seem like an easy and obvious one but it’s amazing how often many different brands forget this (at the expense of their fans and consumers). If you’re going to promise an AMAZING concert to all of your LOVING fans at a specific time, then you better make sure it happens.

And if you don’t – if you over-promise and under-deliver -well, then you really need to –

5. Invest in a Crisis Comms plan
Plan for the worst. Know what to do when things go wrong. At the time of writing, the Biebmeister is still yet to address the wealth of disappointed fans that had to leave the O2 early last night. A good crisis comms plan would know what to do in this situation: be that have the man(?) himself apologise on stage or even consider refund the ticket money – there are many different ways he could make this situation better. 12hrs later: none are yet to appear.

Irrespective of your opinion on Bieber-mania, there are a many, many unhappy fans sitting down at school today who feel let down by their beloved idol.

Read over the above again and just think: could it happen to you?


 Image via Adam Sundana on Flickr

Seven, Eight and Nine

“It’s good to talk”

As promised in my last post, this next one is a bit of a biggie. Sitting comfortably?
Then I’ll begin…

Towards the end of last year, around the start of December in fact, I found myself having a conversation with fellow Mobile Industry Review contributor, Jonathan Jensen. He and I were discussing that as we move into 2009, brands should be placing a certain level of importance on engaging with their consumers on an increasingly more conversational level.

The exact words that struck such a chord with Jonathan were as follows:

‘2007: Content was King. 2008: Context is King. In 2009? Conversation will be King.’

At that point however, I had to dash off to do a presentation for SpinVox and never got the chance to elaborate on that thought any further.

What I mean is; back in the ring tone & wallpaper days of 2005-7 (does anyone below the age of 16 actually use those services anymore?), everywhere you went the mystic phrase was uttered; ‘content is king’

The content in this instance is the aforementioned downloadable premium additions to your handset. During my job at Mobizines (and subsequently Mippin), we were still seeing presentation after presentation and report after report, all supporting (or at least purporting to) this concept – as late as this time last year in fact.

And we lapped it up.

2007 came and went, and sharing was set to be the theme for 2008 (that was my prediction anyway) and you could argue that this was proven to be correct in a number of ways.

In the future, people will look back and say that Facebook was instrumental in introducing Social Media to the masses. It unified communications on a consumer level and gradually allowed people to begin sharing.

Of course, the ‘Content is King’ mantra did not just disappear with the twilight of the year. The legacy lived on, rearing its ugly head once again, this time in the form of Facebook Applications. With only a few exceptions, this first swathe of applications; including Werewolves, Ninjas, Sheep Throwing and more, were soon replaced with some contextual goodness.

The adverts soon followed suit; “Your friend ‘x’ likes this, so you will like it too…”

It’s hardly a trusted referral from a non-branded, independent entity, but it’s not far off.

We’ll come back to this point later as, before we look at trusted referrals, we need to return to content for a moment – and how that lineage spreads into Social Media.

Facebook for example, gives you contextual content from your friends. If you give any content just a smidgen of context, suddenly you’ll find you have the potential for engagement. Facebook, by turning content over to its users, allowed context to become king – almost overnight.

Context gives content meaning, and is at the centre of any Location Based Service actually ever becoming successful. Context also adds to the ambient awareness that Facebook has brought upon us all. Knowing where my friends are and what they are doing is not only easy to implement, but also fantastically simple to engage with. Comment on this, write on that, post it here – Facebook makes it so easy. Some people choose to have a constant stream of ‘noise’ flowing through them at all times, but it’s the content from your friends that is important. That is the context.

As I said in Helsinki;

“YOU are the stream, everything else is just the channel you use to publish your content…”

So that’s the consumers sorted. What about advertising?
For that, I’m going to use another quote;

“A trusted referral from a non-branded independent entity is more powerful than any amount of advertising, marketing or PR.”

– Blake Chandlee, MD Facebook Europe.

For me, this can be simply illustrated as follows: You and I are in a pub, posters surround us for Beer X, but everyone around us is drinking Beer Y.
I ask you which one you’d prefer and you say; “I’ll have what you’re having”.

When you use the same example, but add in the context of Facebook, you find that it becomes;
“Your friend likes this, so you should too.”

Alas, the latter is missing context. The pub example outlined above works because both you and I are there together, and we’re there to drink together, (two words: social objects).

The addition of an advertiser – in this case on Facebook – does not work, as there is no human context involved. It has attempted to do what I like to call ‘content wrapping’ – making an advert that has no relevance to me appear meaningful.

There is a massive difference between “I’ve done this, so you must do it too” and “I’ve done this, I loved it and here’s why you’d love it too”. It is the equivalent of me talking to you as an individual, instead of an advertiser using my profile picture to endorse its brand.

You get my meaning…

In 2008, people and brands began to realise that without context, content is rendered meaningless. Now in 2009, the tide is turning and advertisers are beginning to understand that old school games of ‘scattergun marketing’ just don’t work anymore.

This is nothing new, nor is it by any stretch of the imagination, rocket science. I’ve talked about this before numerous times. However, to give this piece context (see – it is important), I need to re-iterate a couple of things.

In 2008 – the year of sharing – context was most definitely king. Any person’s homepage on Facebook (that most people look at daily) was, and still is, very smart. It displays interesting content created by people you know (which immediately provides context), which was specifically created for you.
If that’s not targeted advertising, I don’t know what is.

Funnily, you know what else it is?


But enough of that. Let’s look forward. To 2009. To the year of CONVERSATION.

At this point it should be noted that these opinions are my own and are based on my personal experiences & knowledge of this particular space, in this particular part of the world.
In other markets, I am well aware that content is still reigning king and that context is quietly plotting its imminent downfall.

In the same way traditional marketing and advertising methods are being scrapped in favour of more intelligent niche or hyper-targeted practices, in this coming year brands will realise the benefit of engaging with their consumer on a more conversational level

Don’t get me wrong, some are doing it already, there are MANY forward-thinking brands out there doing just that.

Last year, when I wrote about being human, I talked about how the guys that will do well in this coming year will the ones that want to have genuine conversations with their consumers.

And I stand by it.