Giving the stage to your consumers to raise their voices can be beneficial for everyone. Everyone seems happy within such a system. Companies get a lot of insight about their preferences and needs (in a rather cheap way), you get bonded to them, you get them committed. Consumers are willing to participate because they feel they belong to a community of look-a-likes and they love the freedom to raise their thoughts, feelings, concerns. Well, let me stick to that last word…concerns!
Yesterday I read in the news the failure of McDonald’s Twitter strategy. They wanted to create an interface where consumers would share their positive experiences regarding the McDonald’s restaurants. Therefore they created the account @McDStories (currently deleted). However, they neglected the fact that word-of-mouth can be also negative. Given the past reputation of the restaurant chain, I doubt that giving the freedom to all consumers to speak up was the rightest choice! It started as a few tweets from the brand (“Meet some of the hard-working people dedicated to providing McDs with quality food every day #McDStories”). But soon it ended full of tweets such as :
Result: Not only the bad publicity and the need to switch down the account, but also consumers bonded even more against McDonald’s and made the story viral. Not only they failed to create brand value from their customers but rather they lost control of the negative brand associations promoted by their “customers” (if we can call them customers).
Empowering your consumers is a good strategy. A very good and promising strategy. But it is not a panacea. It is not a strategy to put all your other worries aside. It needs control, it requires that companies set the boundaries of the communities within which the brand stories would prevail.
Lesson learned? Time will tell…