A week's a long time on Twitter
Back in the nineties Gerald Ratner managed to trash his hugely successful jewellery empire, all on his own, without the assistance of Twitter or other social channels, which of course hadn't been thought of back then. He candidly attributes his catastrophic crash to 'The Speech' referring to his Institute of Directors address at the Royal Albert Hall in April 1991.
During his speech he commented that some of his earrings were cheaper than a Marks and Spencer prawn sandwich, but probably wouldn't last as long. Following the event the value of his global empire collapsed by £500m and he himself resigned. Twenty years on the phrase 'doing a Ratner' is still used to symbolise tarnishing one's brand.
There are parallels with last week's Dolce and Gabbana debacle where remarks made about IVF fertility and traditional families by Domenico Gabbana infuriated Elton John, who then launched a boycott of the iconic brand orchestrated via social media. Enraged celebrities including Victoria Beckham weighed in threatening never to wear the brand again. The issue was front page headlines and a leader on TV news. In each case the 'guilty' party didn't think their views would be taken seriously and/or were personal rather than relating to their brands.
At our CCA industry briefing this week participants were asked if they recalled what was trending last week on social. No one remembered the D&G debacle until prompted, despite the fact that it had been so prominent only a week earlier. And yet, most people were able to recount the Ratner case as if it was yesterday.
Information overload is the new normal in our personal and business lives, and is presenting considerable challenges for organisations who are desperately trying to command some of our undivided attention to promote their services. This, combined with a perceived need to offer everything across all communication channels, has created greater complexity than ever before.
In particular, developing and implementing the right social strategy has become the number one issue for many organisations in our network who are striving to present a better digital offering in an increasingly fragmented world.
At last week’s CCA Leadership Forum in London, 23 leading brands collaborated to create a vision for the next 2-5 years, with regard to how organisations will respond to rapidly changing technological and consumer drivers in our market. Case studies highlighted the operational challenges of blending social media teams with traditional voice channels, and the HR issues surrounding getting the right candidate fit for the role.
There was also considerable interest in the area of clever apps, with several organisations reporting real progress in improved customer experience rankings due to their simplicity versus more established channels.
It is too early to say how the brand damage to Dolce & Gabbana compares to Ratner in our always on social world. Some might argue that the presence of Twitter allowed all views to be communicated and debated quickly, thus helping to reach a more reasoned conclusion. Others might argue that the issue escalated out of control due to its very existence.
One thing is certain; there is no going back to our previous world where the volume and pace of communication was gentler. However despite our fascination with communication channels themselves, agreeing and continually reviewing content and tone is vital today more than ever. Ensuring a common understanding of simple brand principles and values from the CEO and board to front-line colleagues will always be in fashion, regardless of the number of ways we invent to communicate them.