Comcast Kills Customer Service (and Its Merger With TWC?)

customer service signIt seems strange that we still need to say this in 2014, but here goes: thanks to social media, any customer complaint can go viral.

That’s right, customers not only have a voice online, they have a potential loud hailer. And if you don’t hear them early in the complaint process – or worse still, you piss then of even more – things can quickly escalate from customer service issue to PR disaster.

Comcast found that out this week, thanks to an unbelievably dense employee who was caught blocking a customer’s desperate attempt to cancel his Internet service. Unfortunately for the rep and the brand, the caller recorded a full xx minutes of this argumentative attempt at “service,” which is embedded below for your listening misery.

In the wake of the call going viral, the audio has not only been heard more than 4.9 million times, it’s also headline news for every media outlet with a passing interest in tech and big business (which is most of them!)

And even more than the media fallout, this comes at a time when Comcast is trying to convince regulators that its proposed merger with Time Warner Cable is a good idea that will benefit customers. Obviously the media has taken the two stories and combined them into one glorious headline-making advertisement against that idea, the repercussions of which will be enormous if it sways the FCC’s decision.

Comcast and Time Warner Cable logos

Customer service lines have had a terrible reputation for decades, but the worst examples have remained contained. No longer. Every smartphone is a ready-made recording device, complete with instantaneous sharing capability.

Comcast learned that the hard way this week. Other brands would be well advised to take heed and redouble customer service training to ram home the worst case scenario to employees.

Money Talks: Brands Send Mixed Message on Paid Social Media

Like-Dislike Thumbs - FacebookIt all started with Mark Cuban.

Since the marketing and media-savvy owner of the Dallas Mavericks  spoke out about Facebook’s business model 18 months ago, the blow-back  has come  faster and more critical for the world’s largest social media platform.

Not least of this criticism was the reaction to a widely-shared study on limited organic reach, conducted by Ignite Media late last year, which showed a 44% drop in the natural reach of page posts within just one week of Facebook’s December algorithm change.

Clearly the company is pushing brands towards paid reach, a path that it , and many anticipated a major push back against Facebook this year. The reality seems to reject that hypothesis.

Advertisers Embrace Paid Social Reach… Slowly

What’s actually happening is a cautious embrace of social media advertising across the board, with Facebook suffering only a slightly larger pullback than its main rivals.

Research from Ad Age shows that almost half of the brand advertisers surveyed will “modestly increase” their social media ad spend on Facebook this year, with only a 5% gap between those who say they will do the same on Twitter.

And when it comes to major increase in paid social Facebook wins out by a percentage point, with 11% of those asked planning a significant increase. With decreases in budget at roughly the same level as those major increases, it’s clear that few brand advertisers have found the gumption to shift their annual spend away from social, especially when it comes to the anticipated flow away from Facebook.

The End of Free Reach

For brand pages at least, it appears that the party is over when it comes to uninhibited access to Facebook fans.

Even though these users have ‘liked’ the page willingly, there’s only so much space in a News Feed and Facebook is adjusting its algorithm to surface only the most engaging content. At least that’s the public-facing explanation, while behind closed doors the company is now answerable to shareholders and must prove its revenue growth since going public two years ago.

Either way the upshot is the same, brands who want to expand their reach must either be the most skilled content marketers on the planet, or pay for the privilege. 

To break through that noise in future, more and more brands are going to have to up their social media budget.

And despite a lot of early grumbling as the transition has gathered pace, it seems that in the long term advertisers are going to accept the need to pay for attention on social media, as they would any other marketing channel.

Friday Fails: Twitter is Not #OzApproved for TV Doc

Dr. Oz may be one of daytime TV’s most ratings-approved medical advisors, but it’s unlikely he approves of the submissions to his latest Twitter campaign.

Clearly hoping to start a healthy new Twitter trend with his #OzApproved hashtag, in asking viewers to submit suggestions for food that would qualify the good doctor struck a nerve with those who don’t care for his style of medicine.

Consider some of the submissions so far:

Dr. Oz hashtag fail

From junk food to mystery meat and snake oil to magic beans, the suggestions as to just what Oz might approve came thick and fast. That last one in particular may be a painful observation for Dr. Oz, who came recently came under fire from TV satirist John Oliver for his hawking of “magic” pills and nutrition supplements without legitimate scientific backing.

Mehmet Oz

Image Credit: Wikipedia

The famous doctor – real name Mehmet C. Oz – has a longstanding, self-titled show on daytime television,  and this week appeared before a Senate Subcommittee charged with investigating false claims by weight loss products. Having associated his program with such products, Oz is already facing a backlash and social media is always a place to pour fuel on that type of fire.

So fair warning: if your brand is in the public eye for the wrong reasons at any given point, it’s probably not the best time to ask for opinions!

 

Bud Light Plans a Brand-Sponsored Night of “Whatever”

Must of us have had a memorable night on the town thanks to (or to blame on) alcohol, but probably never before in a town being run by a beer company.

Budweiser intends to change that as part of its “Whatever, USA” campaign, which plans to put Bud Light at the core of an unspecified town and drop in fans who are #UpForWhatever.

If that sounds like a recipe for disaster, well, that could be just what the King of Beers is looking for.

The brand is currently accepting audition videos from potential participants and “casting” around the country, in a process which strongly resembles the early stages of reality and talent TV shows like “Survivor” and “X-Factor.” These auditions will allow the campaign’s strategists to weed out – or perhaps push forward – any candidates who look like they might be trouble.

It’s a bold undertaking for a brand and furthers the drive towards businesses becoming media houses. Part of the allure is the secrecy and potential for ‘anything goes’ content, although just how crazy Bud will let things get remains to be seen. Walking that line between sponsoring fun and causing chaos is always a challenge for alcohol producers, but the campaign seems to be off to a good start as events pop up around the country.

Bud Light as Brand Publisher

Another side element of the campaign is our old friend native advertising and just how much disclosure must be given when brands blend content with their marketing message. This Buzzfeed post, for example, in which Bud Light is identified as the “Brand Publisher,” but only in a byline that’s dwarfed by the article content. The association is there, but not necessarily everyone will make it.

Remember that regulators look for full disclosure of conflicts of interest when a product or service is seen to be promoted on a site that isn’t your own.

Guidance is still being formed on native advertising, so if you have questions about keeping your own marketing campaigns within the law, get in touch with our experts.

Friday Fail: Delta Does Damage Control at World Cup 2014

This week’s #FridayFail comes courtesy of World Cup time, with the only surprise being that brands managed to make it five days in before making a mess on social media.

In the end it was Delta Airlines which was thoroughly grounded after tweeting this ill-advised (and just plain ignorant) image  in support the US Men’s National Team (USMNT).

Delta Giraffe Tweet

Apparently confusing USMNT opponents Ghana with the entire continent on which they reside, Delta assumed that a picture of a giraffe was a reasonable visual representation for the country. Even at its most optimistic this would represent poor judgement, but unfortunately for Delta giraffes don’t actually call Ghana home.

Quickly pushed into damage control mode, the airline apologized and decided that supporting everyone would be the most prudent course of action.

Delta World Cup tweet fail

Ghana 1 – 0 Delta.

Replacing the Redskins: Should a Brand Endure?

Only a couple of weeks ago the Washington Redskins featured in our “Friday Fail” spot over a botched social media campaign to rally support around their controversial name.

Well it looks like the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) also considered the idea a bad one, as it announced the cancellation of Washington’s trademark on the “Redskins” name. Although this has happened before, the increased attention on the football franchise makes it all the more interesting this time around.

Washington Redskins stadium and logo

Don’t tread on me… the Redskins and their logo are under fire | Image Credit: bsoist

Under Fire

Everyone from high school officials to religious leaders has had their say on why the name should be changed, putting pressure on the D.C. franchise owners to reconsider their stance.

The clamor almost certainly influenced the USPTO decision to resurrect a cancellation that it first pursued back in 1999. That decision was quickly appealed, giving the Redskins time to maneuver without making any change, and eventually overturned in 2003.

The trademark office maintains that the name breaches the Lanham Act, which says that a trademark can be cancelled when it brings a certain category of people into disrepute. Clearly plenty of people, including ‘skins fans, feel the same and it is this that the USPTO is hopeful will make its decision stick this time around.

But even though this isn’t the first time that the Redskins name has been challenged in trademark terms, it’s the first that public pressure has been so significant that many analysts believe the team’s owners will be forced to make the change.

Should a Brand Endure?

As far as the team’s ownership is concerned, they will not lose this trademark, or the traditional name that it refers to, without a fight.

Trademark attorney  Bob Raskopf confirmed as much in a statement, looking to the inevitable appeal process and affirming that this week’s decision is likely to be “no different than [the] earlier case.”

The difference could be in the bottom line, of course, which cuts to the core of whether a brand should endure when it comes under fire. It’s all too easy for controversy to be stirred up across social media, however, so the flip side is that there are times when outrage will blow over and brands should simply stay the course.

What this comes down to is another slight pin prick that threatens to burst the Redskins bubble. Even if the appeal should be successful and that doesn’t happen, continued public pressure could see the team’s reputation deflate to such a level that the owners simply can’t afford to ignore popular opinion.

World Cup 2014 Kicks Off Big Business for Brands

Soccer’s World Cup kicked off last week in Brazil, with all the razzmatazz expected of one of the world’s most popular and flamboyant sports.

Even against a backdrop of domestic discontent and sporting scandal, the world is ready to And as with the Olympics and Superbowl, this is a sporting event that demands big brands be on top form.

Coca Cola World Cup 2014

Coca Cola gears up for World Cup 2014 | Image Credit: Mike Mozart

Most of the usual players are out there looking for their share of the tens of millions of viewers already pouring in from each qualifying country. While the brand results are all over the map, both geographically and in terms of success, the big brands are out in force with different takes on how to win over audiences (especially here in the U.S., where soccer is  rarely viewed as a major sporting event.)

To search for that elusive crossover appeal, the (newly acquired by Apple) Beats Electronics brand enlisted the help of better known American athletes like LeBron James and Serena Williams, to appear alongside soccer icons Ronaldo and Neymar, in its blanket coverage ad.

Meanwhile Nike relied purely on soccer stars alone in its ‘Winner Stays‘ spot, where as McDonalds took things all the way back to grass roots level with this excellent ‘trick shot’ spot.

Without deep pockets, though, it’s tough for a business to legally associate itself with World Cup 2014. The governing body of the sport has published its guidelines on the marks it has registered for the tournament, limiting the areas in which brands other than official sponsors can connect with the hundred of millions of people that the event attracts.

As always with major sporting and world occasions, it’s important to known where you might be stepping over the line if you want to align yourself with the big event. If you have questions, our team has the knowledge and know-how to keep your business from being kicked around!