Update: Hope of a cure for Komen

As individuals, we feel a sense of satisfaction when our opinions are validated.

Since my last post, Harris Interactive released the results of its 2012 EquiTrend study, which measures and compares brand health. The organization with the largest drop in brand equity over the past year, and the second highest drop in the 23-year history of the poll, was Susan G. Komen for the Cure.

Komen usually receives high scores for quality, willingness to recommend, and trust. This year it fell to the bottom of the pack. Negative feelings rose by 350%.

The good news for Komen – the wounds do not appear to be fatal. A press release from Harris Interactive suggests, “indicators look good for a bounce-back if commitment to core mission is re-established.” Let’s hope Komen listens.

A Week of Social Media: Good, Bad, and Ugly

This week, the reputations of companies, brands, and individuals have been tarnished, supported, enhanced, and immortalized. The public has contributed its voice through social media channels.

WHITNEY HOUSTON

Yesterday, family, friends, and celebrities gathered to say goodbye to singer, Whitney Houston. While acknowledging her vulnerabilities, the powerful eulogies paid tribute to Houston’s achievements and helped secure her place in history as one of the great voices of her time.

Ordinary fans gathered on Twitter to pay their respects, just as they had done a week earlier to express their grief over Houston’s tragic death. In fact, Houston related themes dominated the top ten Twitter trends for much of the past week.

APPLE

At the beginning of the week, Harris Interactive released the results of its 2012  Reputation Quotient Study. Apple ranked highest, confirming (perhaps, even enhancing) its reputation with the general public.

But, to some, this achievement was surprising. For several years, Apple has been fighting groundswell against the treatment of employees working in its supply chain. One New York Times article alone, “In China, Human Costs are Built into an iPad,” attracted 1,770 online comments condemning Apple’s human rights record.

Corporate social responsibility is only one of six categories in the survey. The financial performance of the company, success of the iPhone 4S, and the recent memory of the visionary leader, Steve Jobs, contributed to Apple’s overall first position.

The following day, the Twitter world was abuzz again.  Tim Cook, Apple CEO, finally, acknowledged the company’s human rights problem by announcing that the Fair Labor Association is assessing working conditions in its factories. In a further victory for activists, Foxconn Technology, an Apple manufacturer, announced pay rises for workers.

If Apple is to maintain second place in the social responsibility ranking, it needs to deliver on these promises. The company cannot ride on its innovative products and financial performance forever.The question is now clear, “Profit at what cost?” The world is watching.

1-800-FLOWERS.COM

Single Rose – by Thor

As a result of another social media outburst, the reputation of 1-800-Flowers.Com, Inc. took a nosedive this week. The company suggests it is rated number one amongst its competitors for customer satisfaction – I’m guessing not any longer!

1-880-Flowers.Com failed to deliver hundreds of orders on Valentine’s Day. Unhappy customers posted derogatory messages on Facebook or took to Twitter to express their dissatisfaction. Soon, complete strangers were engaging in conversations with each other. The anger towards the company increased. Apologetic employees attempted to quell the Twitter outcry.

While we might applaud 1-800-Flowers.Com for monitoring the social media channels and for listening, responding, and apologizing to its customers on Twitter, communication cannot fix the problem. It can only attempt to limit reputational damage. Improving performance is key to restoring trust.

Time is limited. With Easter and Mother’s Day on the horizon, will dissatisfied customers (and the many others who read the angry Tweets) give the company another chance? Or will the newly formed Twitter group recruit more disgruntled followers?

BMW Caught in a Storm

BMW Badge by Byrion on Flickr

 

Think of BMW and the words quality and performance come to mind. For years, the company has delivered on its promise to build the “ultimate driving machine.” Combining this achievement with a strong commitment to corporate social responsibility and sustainability has allowed BMW to bank significant reputational capital.

Last week, the company was forced to dip into its savings when an advertising campaign for its Mini Cooper brand fell foul of the weather.

Sassenbach Advertising, based in Munich, paid $394 to place the name “Cooper” on a list for naming high-pressure weather systems in Germany. The agency, which runs social media campaigns for Mini Cooper, says it was trying to portray a “ wind- and weather-proof idea” for the new two-seater convertible. Fans were invited to track the progress of the “beautiful weather” system online.

Unfortunately, the extreme cold weather front, which became known as “Cooper,” reaped havoc across Europe.  Temperatures dropped to minus 33 degrees Celsius and numerous deaths were reported in several countries. Thousands were treated in hospital for hypothermia and frostbite.

With the Mini Cooper brand linked to worsening weather reports, BMW was caught in a public relations nightmare. The company issued a statement expressing regret and stating, “you cannot tell in advance what a weather system will do.”

Did BMW hear what it said? Given that we cannot control Mother Nature, why would BMW agree to align one of its brands with something as unpredictable as the weather? Was the risk of tarnishing brand reputation worth the potential benefit?

Hopefully, BMW and the ad agency – who quickly distanced itself from the incident – have learned a lesson. If not, it appears this story may not be over yet. The ad agency also purchased the name “Minnie” to be assigned to a warm weather front!

What do you think? Should BMW and its Mini Cooper brand take a chance on another weather system?

Welcome to CR Thoughts

I have watched and I have waited until, finally, I can wait no longer. A long-term assignment for a social media class has provided the shove I needed to launch myself into this new world – the blogosphere.

Over the coming weeks and months, I hope to share my thoughts on matters of corporate social responsibility and corporate reputation – to give praise when praise is due and to question when I think actions are questionable.