This morning I decided it was my duty as a digial consultant and author of a book about the viral power of complaints (Satisfied Customers Tell Three Friends, Angry Customers Tell 3000, Doubleday Business), to take yet another look at that disgusting, now legendary video posted to YouTube by two former (and now being sued) Dominos employees. Aside from the video itself, the comments are a rich source of insights, ever revealing of brand credibiliy and reputation, and I wanted to give them a good look as well. Alas, much to my surprise, this infamous video -- this "when bad things happen to brands" case study of the year -- was nowhere to be found. Instead, YouTube, posted the following curious comment:
This video is no longer available due to a copyright claim by Kristy Hammonds.
Kristy Hammonds is one of the former employees in question. The specific nature of her "copyright claim" is yet to be seen, although it could be related to her prior record. What I do know is that there are going to be a ton of surprised folks over the curious removal of this video. I also predict a viral rush to any TV news clip (see example here) or non YouTube versions of the clip on the web. Once the viral Domino-effect starts on the web, it's really tough to remove. The good news for Dominos is that YouTube version generated the lion's share of exposure, generating so much link-love that the video now ranks #3 against general "Dominos" queries on Google. Now the highly incriminating video hits a dead-end...for now at least.
Irrespective of the damage control tactics employed by the brand or others, this incident represents yet another sobering wake-up call for brands about the power (and potential ugliness) of consumer expression. My Ad Age column this week focuses on the power and potential of "earned media" versus paid media (Earned Media May Be More Efficient, But Its Far From Free), but it also seeks to temper our social media exubberance by introducing a new term into our vernacular: spurned media (earned media that goes negative). Indeed, expression cuts both ways.
This incident also underscores, once again, the importance of understanding the relationship between business processes -- product quality, customer service, employee training -- and word-of-mouth. Much as we bear-hug viral "campaigns," the most viral word-of-mouth emanates from more foundational business processes. Just think about the Taco Bell "Rats" incident. Hygiene and cleanliness in particular is one of the most viral issues in the fast food industry, an issue I've come to appreciate in monitoring buzz for Nielsen and earlier in my founding of PlanetFeedback.com.
Put another way, know thy talk drivers.