My column in Ad Age today takes on a topic that may well be the title of my next book: Defensive Branding. Defensive branding, I note, is "protecting and defending brand equity and reputation in an increasingly consumer-driven environment. Think media planning plus actuarial viral risk management." Here are some excerpts:
"The logic goes something like this: Sandbag before you sell. Protect before you promote. Defend before you dance. Self-critique before you self-destruct.
"Folks, we're vulnerable. Our Achilles Heel just moved up to our chest. Indeed, beware exuberant social-media pontificators bearing gifts. This stuff is hard, and often it blows up in our faces. The digital landscape is littered with social-media roadkill. I've been in the brand-monitoring business since 1999, witnessing what the late Dr. Carl Sagan might have referred to as "billions and billions" of online conversations. It's not all good.
"The era of friction-free feedback is turning Twitter into a 24/7 anywhere and anyplace complaint desk. Facebook pages for raving fans often morph into frying pans. Paid-media gains are getting erased by "spurned media" (earned media gone negative) pain.
"It's not like the negativity dissipates or blow away. Wikipedia and search results never forget brand screw-ups or stumbles. Media reporters, now fortified by social-media tools themselves, regularly source scoop from a cheat sheet of tweeters, bloggers and article commentators. Often, they know things about our brands before we do.
"...it's not that we can't win, but we might be best served by first fortifying the defense and sharpening our brand radar. Listen first, answer next, engage last. Rein it in, folks. Know your vulnerabilities and assume the worst. Think like your worst critic. Heck, put your own products and service to the "torture test" before other consumers do it for you.
Again, read on...