The public understands the challenges of brand consistency in the digital age. With so many distractions unfolding so continuously and quickly, it’s easy to go off message or reveal a failure in a brand’s promise or values.
Just as that dangerous mix of human fallibility and technical reliability brought former General David Petraeus and his biographer Paula Broadwell down like the Hindenburg, so online PR campaigns can self-sabotage when technology exposes the contradictory actions of CEOs or employees.
Take Oprah Winfrey, for example, who recently tweeted glowing reviews naming Microsoft’s Surface tablet as one of her Favorite Things 2012, thereby giving the tablet an important and powerful endorsement in an intensely competitive market category.
It’s Oprah, after all, and she’s (still) one of the most important personalities in America. We can only assume that Microsoft was ecstatic about the praise from Ms. Winfrey. The company was also probably just as surprised as everyone else to learn that the tweets were sent from an iPad, the Darth Vader to Microsoft’s young Luke Skywalker.
What was Oprah thinking?
Is this a PR crime on par with BP’s gulf oil spill? Of course not. Is it hilarious? Absolutely. It’s also a PR setback for both Oprah and Microsoft because of the innate “stink test” the public exercises in moments like these.
As with any other scandal, one question has led to many other inquiries that increasingly raise the public’s level of suspicion, interest and passion for more information—and the dirtier it is, the faster it spreads. Now the public asks whether Oprah even wrote those tweets (which sound like marketing copy) herself. If she didn’t, then who did–and why?
Please tell us the woman who brought us inner truth, the A-ha moment and spiritual peace wouldn’t deceive us by pretending to endorse something she doesn’t actually like? Is this a conspiracy? The horror!
If you asked members of the general public whether they liked Oprah Winfrey or Ellen DeGeneres, they’d probably endorse both. Human beings will always be more complicated than the technologies we create, and that’s because humanity comes with the ability to be inconsistent and sincere at the same time.