What do Gap, OnStar and Netflix have in common?
If you answered that they're all companies that have a passionate customer base, you'd be correct!
If you answered that they were publicly embarrassed by said customers into reversing a controversial decision, you'd also be correct.
Gap was forced to scrap the redesign of its logo. OnStar was forced to abandon plans to track customer vehicles without permission. And Netflix? Well, after the haphazard launch of its Qwikster subsidiary, the movie rental company this week announced that it was killing those plans.
"It is clear that for many of our members two websites would make things more difficult, so we are going to keep Netflix as one place to go for streaming and DVDs. This means no change: one website, one account, one password…in other words, no Qwikster." — Reed Hastings, CEO Netflix.
No Mr. Hasting, in other words, it means you made the mistake that many companies have made before you. You assumed that your brand was 100 percent yours to tinker with. You assumed that we were still in the 20th century, where marketing budgets and advertising dollars dictated how we, as consumers, should feel and interact with your brand.
You see, ever since man learned how to
make fire use a social network, consumers have found that they have a voice, a share in the conversation about your brand. And, when faced with a bone-headed decision, that results in a fundamental shift in our perpection of your brand, said consumers will kick and scream and threaten to take their toys wallets home.
That's why it's important to measure the engagement and passion surrounding your brand. If your company's products and services are commoditized—which is a polite way of saying "a dime a dozen"—then you don't really need to worry about including your customers in any shift in branding. They'll just shrug their shoulders and carry on with life. But, if your business is built on the foundation of rabid customer fans—the kind that will line up for hours to buy your latest product—then take heed.
We've created an age where engaging our stakeholders is all the rage. We work so hard to get customers to Like us, Tweet us or write a review, that we often overlook the social media monster we've created. As a result of our engagement, our customers now expect, well, to be engaged. They expect to be consulted on every single decision that our company makes. From logo changes, to full company re-branding, our customers simply get ticked-off when we make the decision without consulting them. Social media engagement has become a double-edge sword.
So, the next time your company gets together in the fancy boardroom—you know, the one with the mahogny table and leather chairs—to decide the future of your business, ask yourself this. Is this a decision that our customers might want to be involved in? If the answer is yes, then you'd better make sure you figure out a way to include them in that process.
And next time, I'll share some tips on how you can achieve customer buy-in to your big decisions.