How I Realized That Tabasco Doesn’t Give a Sh*t About Me

By Dave Barton Comment


Today we bring you a guest post by Dave Barton, copywriter and  founder of tover_banda.

The Brand Loyalty Social Media Litmus Test 

Customer loyalty continues to be the Holy Grail for brands large and small. Amid stories of some encouraging staff to ‘delight at all costs’ – Exhibit A being Zappos’ rumored nine hour call to a single customer –  the reality is that different brands foster loyalty in their own way.

So given the same kind of interaction to respond to, how many extra miles would a variety of brands, from very different sectors, go for an individual who’s ultimately trying to help them?

In this age of online interaction, where brands want to be our buddies and personalize our experiences, how would they respond to said individual who’s using the very public channels that brands seek to court consumer attention with?

This was the thinking behind my #30dayshath campaign, which ran for the duration of September. Actually it wasn’t – initially. A couple of months back, I decided I’d create a suite of speculative campaigns for some well-known brands – more for fun than anything else. Then I figured I could send these ideas directly to the brands each one was created for – one idea a day for 30 days. They ranged from in-depth full-on platform concepts spanning some six pages of A4, to a half page TVC outline.

I posted them to my Tumblr feed, tweeting links to the brands concerned (and those in charge of them) as well as sticking individual ideas to each brand’s Facebook page. In each case, the idea was presented as an example of me ‘sharing the love, every day this month’ – so it’s not as if I sent a solo link devoid of any emotion or context.

Now, far be it from me to say whether the ideas are good or not ­– I’ll let you be the judge of that – but given the fact I’d sought to engage my brands with a token of fandom, you’d have expected a fair bit of interaction – even if it be a cursory ‘hair ruffle’ and a ‘we’ll call you’ kind of response. And that’s exactly what I got: from two out of the 30 brands. Two.

  • A well-known food brand (that may or may not produce olive oil-based foodstuffs) publicly thanked me for my efforts on Facebook, promising to pass my idea on to the appropriate department (Day 8).
  • A mobile phone technology brand (Day 23) also thanked me for my efforts, and enquired as to whether I currently used their products. I replied honestly – I used to – before lamenting the slide-out keyboard of my former object of ‘desire’ (hint, hint).
  • From the rest, I received a ‘favorite tweet’ from a well-known spirits brand (Day 10), and a Facebook ‘Like’ from an e-reader manufacturer (Day 14).

Call me ungrateful. Maybe my ideas didn’t cut the mustard. Maybe I went about seeding them all wrong. But I’d foolishly hoped for a bit more brand interaction.

Admittedly, each idea was mostly articulated in words (hey – I am a copywriter). But surely the absence of high falutin’ Flixels and awe-inspiring animated GIFs wouldn’t seal my fate as ‘Do Not Respond’?

Did I scare them by being nice??

Ultimately a lot of social media interactions are customer complaints. Read the messages posted to the wall of any given consumer brand’s Facebook page and amid the occasional digital fist bump you’ll find reams of disgruntled prose taking umbrage to a specific brand experience.

Maybe they found the fact that I’d done something like this overwhelming, or dare I say it, a danger to them?

I get that a lot of brands’ social media feeds are taken care of by agencies. Yup – those whose livelihoods rely on them coming up with the creative goods, and who earn a damn fine living from it. The last thing they need is someone offering up ideas for free – regardless of how good or bad they are. Perhaps that’s the reason why at least two brands seemingly ‘deleted’ my posts from their respective Facebook walls – including what was one of my all-time favorite brands (That hurt, Tabasco. Yes, you get named).

The only other plausible reason I can think of for their silence is sheer volume of work. I appreciate a lot of companies are busy… actually scratch that.

Why would a brand invite dialogue with their customer base, only to disregard all but the most defamatory responses? It reminds me of an old saying: ‘spare the rod, spoil the child’ – the point being that only naughty children are given attention they crave… hmmm…

Perhaps there’s another reason: brands don’t really respond to anyone but the most vitriolic of customers via social media because, well, they don’t really want to. If that were the case, it would explain the endlessly histrionic content feeds; the kind that seek to position brands in the zeitgeist to stay relevant – y’know the ‘Hey it’s nearly Kwanzaa! Eat a cookie!’  kind of posts.

Ok. Fine. I’ll just come out and say it, contentious or not… most brands try to use social media platforms as they did print, TV, and ambient media in the halcyon pre-digital days – to blanket broadcast their messages.

Trust me, I’m as horrified to come to this conclusion as I imagine you are at reading it. I really didn’t think it could be true, but the evidence stacks up.  Sadly, it means that a LOT of brands are misusing social media; they’re not being social. Sure, it is difficult for brands to maintain relevance and cut through, but more important than great content, timely messages, discounts, competitions, and broad engagement is a core audience dialogue.  Like me, though they may not openly admit it, consumers want love back.

Just to prove I’m not completely egotistical, I’ll admit that perhaps I could be accused of a similar crime – provocation posting without prior personalization.  Admittedly, it’s an odd predicament to put a mahoosive multinational in – respond to my campaign idea – but it stands to reason that as consumers, we have a right to test the brands we respect to determine the extent to which they really do value interaction, and want to build relationships with individual customers.

I hereby absolve the brands who gave me credit for my ideas (as well as those brands whose campaigns appeared at the end of the month – who’ve yet to respond). To the others; it’s not too late to reach out (even for you, Tabasco).

Please don’t let me down. I’m special. Just like all of your other customers.