It is fascinating to look at the social dynamics that have been created by the Internet. The one dynamics that is the most relevant for advertisers is the power consumers find in their new found ability to publish their good and bad thoughts through a variety of mediums online. The dis-satisfied consumer who used to just write a letter to the company can now make a video and post it to YouTube, start a blog to chronicle their problems or publish a Web site as a platform to publicize their thoughts. This creates a whole new definition of for what is involved in customer relationship management.
One of the most publicized cases of this was in November 2004, an Englishman named Adrian Melrose bought a brand-new Land Rover Discovery 3 and it was a lemon. The dealer and Land Rover corporate didn’t take the problem very seriously so Adrian began to write a blog called “Discover the Truth About Land Rover Discovery 3” and took his complaints public. For weeks, Land Rover ignored the blog even as it began to get thousands of sympathetic comments. It got to the point where Land Rover could no longer ignore it and they replaced his car. Proving that God has a sense of humor the replacement broke down and while they were fixing it the loaner they gave him also broke down. All of this was of course documented in great detail on his blog and it continued to gain more attention and press. In the end, Land Rover decided to give him his money back to stop the bleeding.
We all know that if Adrian had not started his blog and documented his problems he would never have seen that money. While it was what we all thought was the right outcome did it only happen because of blogmail? The reality is that with this new age of digital media and unprecedented access to publishing tools this type of thing will be seen again and a again. Just last week Comcast Must Die! came roaring to life fronted by the uber advertising critic from Advertising Age Bob Garfield. He has an intro to the site that reads “You are no longer just an angry, mistreated customer. Nor, I hope, are you just part of an e-mob. But you are a revolutionary, wresting control from the oligarchs, and claiming it for the consumer. Your power is enormous. Use it wisely.”
It is a slippery slope of when and how companies accommodate consumers who can leverage digital media to effect brands and products. Should they always do it? Can they afford not to?