Case Studies: How Three Companies Handle Promotions, Communications When Things Don't Go According to Plan

Article excerpt

In a perfect world, every promotion and marketing plan rolls out exactly as planned. Back in the real world, however, even the most comprehensive and foolproof plans can go astray. This month we look at recent troubled efforts by The Knot, Procter & Gamble (P&G), and Nestle with the aim of determining the most appropriate ways to handle such situations and how to avoid the pitfalls in the first place.

Mommy Bloggers Attack

Mommy bloggers tend to wield their power in positive ways, but Nestle found out how much heat the moms can bring when they turn on you. Last fall, the company invited 20 mom (and dad) bloggers to a sponsored California vacation to jumpstart its new social media efforts.

Uninvited bloggers attacked the attendees for breaching a long-standing boycott of Nestle over its marketing of baby formula in third world countries. Not realizing social media is an uncontrollable force, Nestle was hoping to facilitate a dialogue among bloggers, not be the hot topic of conversation.

Bottom Line: However worthy its intentions, Nestle, under its Nestle Family unit, made a fundamental conceptual error here. "I'm sure they were uncomfortable when they saw they were outnumbered and in an uncontrolled environment," says Lucid Marketing's Kevin Burke. "From the beginning, the situation was precarious. Nestle Family was not active on Twitter, but they were encouraging bloggers attending their event to tweet, and then aggregate those tweets on a web page. Essentially they were trying to borrow some social media credibility and momentum from the attending bloggers, but without making the commitment and investment themselves."

Burke believes Nestle would have been better served by inviting bloggers to the corporation for a conversation without attempting to brand and market the event, and then allocating resources and responsibility for using Twitter as a communication platform. He notes that the company's Nestle Family Twitter page has since been removed.

The key takeaway is that no brand can ever predict how or what will be said, but if a dialogue or campaign does turn negative, it's essential to respond quickly and honestly.

Spread The Exposure

As part of the brand reinvention for Pantene hair care, P&G aligned with musician Bret Michaels for the "Be the Rock Star You Are" promotion running throughout summer 2010. Michaels appears in national advertising and one grand-prize winner was set to receive VIP access to one of Michaels' summer concerts, including a ride in his tour bus and backstage passes.

However, in April 2010, Michaels suffered a near-fatal brain hemorrhage and the question of whether he would be able to perform again was rendered moot by doctors' uncertainty over the extent of his disability. Amazingly, he did recover, but his once-perilous condition caused P&G to waffle on the offer of the campaign prize.

Bottom Line: P&G made a wise decision by using Michaels as a small portion of a larger campaign. This makes it easy to play up other components, such as the other spokesperson Stacy London and the search for a reality hair star. In short, never focus a campaign on one element, channel, or personality.

"[Women] understand that things don't always go as planned. Parenthood can teach you that quickly. They understand Bret's situation, and Pantene had good intentions and no influence over that situation. …