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by • 26 February, 2009 • CONSUMER INSIGHT, MEDIA, TRAVEL / HOSPITALITYComments (0)1683

The Sound[ing Boards] and The Fury

America, indeed the world, has more to fret about than orange juice. When Tropicana orange juice recently modernized its packaging, consumers were up in arms about the change, recommended by Arnell (part of the Omnicom group) which omitted Tropicana’s longstanding emblem of an orange impaled by a swirly straw.

Now more than ever consumers ranging from the merely irked to mortally offended can now do something than mutter under their breath at the grocery aisles. Web 2.0 permits consumers to voice their innermost thoughts, providing a venue for both the arbitrary and well-argued.

Rather than writing off snark or complaints posted to message boards, brands cannot afford to disregard a critical mass of disappointed consumers. Doing so adds insult to injury, and misses an opportunity to fulfill the adage that the “customer is always right.” Don’t forget that, in this economy like any other, they always are.

Ryanair has provided a fine case study in blowing off bloggers, after which it excused the online outbursts of some IT employees with a recluctant, dismissive statement. [“Ryanair can confirm that a Ryanair staff member did engage in a blog discussion. It is Ryanair policy not to waste time and energy in corresponding with idiot bloggers and Ryanair can confirm that it won’t be happening again.”] Ryanair has made many staff cuts of late to keep its airline going in a turbulent economy, infuriating more consumers. They’ve sadly made cuts in customer service and other staff, placing greater reliance on computer-based airport check-in kiosks and a faulty online booking site.

eConsultancy.com offered a short, polite critique of Ryanair’s generally crummy site which prompted a few people to respond, many of whom clearly had an axe to grind with Ryanair and had been put off by their crummy communications, or the lack thereof. Note to Ryanair: Do invest in a web redesign and PR firm… But reading a few comments, I got a sense of why people bothered to write. Ryanair is a brilliant concept: a cheap airline that lets consumers explore the European continent without breaking the bank. Travellers want Ryanair to work, and provide a predictably efficient, affordable, and pleasant experience. They complain because they, on some level, care about the level of service provided.

Neil Campbell, president at Tropicana North America in Chicago, part of PepsiCo Americas Beverages, told the NYTimes that “For companies that put consumers at the center of what they do,” Web 2.0 is “a good thing.” Tropicana has wisely chosen to revert to its previous packaging, and has responded to Web 2.0 outcry. Campbell has vowed to contact “everyone who called or wrote us” Campbell said to the NYTimes, “and explain to them we’re making the change” back to their previous packaging.

Tropicana recognizes that consumer fury came from consumers – that is, customers in the OJ market, irked enough to care to write. Reaching out to these, even disgruntled consumers is making a respectable effort to win back business and favor by showing Tropicana cares about their opinion. Talk about making lemonade from lemons…or just orange juice…

The popularity of consumer sounding boards should warrant the commited interest of consumer brands. Criterion Global‘s primary areas of expertise is interactive and international advertising and media buying, and we can attest that no single event or invention will impact the marketplace in this century more than the internet. While Criterion Global does not offer PR services, we do actively encourage our clientele to leverage Web 2.0 platforms pro-actively, as well as reactively when the circumstances warrant.

Brand marketers should be cognizant of mentions of their brand on Facebook, MySpace, or for travel and hotel brands, HotelChatter, FlyerTalk, for higher education, College Confidential, for real estate development, check StreetEasy, or Curbed, or if you are a small business or emerging brand, take a look at Yelp.

What other sites do you follow to keep tabs on your brand?

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