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Sunday, December 10, 2023

Brand Management In An Age Of Social Media, Social Activism And Citizen Journalism – By Uche Nworah, Ph.D

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Brands have a lot to learn when it comes to engaging customers, past, present and future, in an age of social media, social activism and citizen journalism.

Consumers have become fiercely vocal, more knowledgeable and empowered. The internet, smart phones and social media have given customers powers which many brands are still struggling to understand how to engage with the empowered customers. These technologies have become enabling tools for the customers. They could also be exploited as engagement tools by brands. Emerging technologies if well managed could make instant communications with various stakeholders possible. Such technologies are more efficient, reliable and cost-effective if deployed in the brand management, media and communications mixes of brands.

There is an ongoing situation between a Facebook user by name Chioma Egodi Jnr and a tomato paste manufacturer. The Facebook user made the following post on her page and also shared a picture of the tomato brand; “I went to buy tin tomatoes yesterday that i will use to make stew, i didn’t see Gino and Sonia, so i decided to buy this one. When i opened it, I decided to taste it. Omo! Sugar is just too much! Haaa! Biko let me know if you have used this tin tomato before because this is an ‘ike gwuru’ situation”.

The tomato paste company did not take kindly to the post and promptly issued a disclaimer defending their brand. There are unconfirmed reports as well that the company has effected the arrest of the lady over her alleged brand ‘disparaging’ comments.

I think that the company in question could have handled this matter differently. They could have reached out to the lady quietly and persuaded her to take down the post, and also find a way to compensate her if she wasn’t completely satisfied with the product. If it’s true that the company has caused for the lady to be arrested, they may well have used their own hands to escalate the matter in the public domain, and by so doing may have swung public sympathy in the lady’s direction.

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Such ‘David against Goliath’ face-off is never good for any brand. Social activists might jump on the matter and it will get blown out of proportion. Some may stage protest marches for the lady to be released, others may call for brand boycott and even picket their factories and offices.

Brands should be careful how they engage perceived ‘critics’ in an age of social media, social activism and citizen journalism.
Looking at this matter from the damage control and crisis management points of view, brands should anticipate bad press in the course of their business operations. It’s how brands engage with such issues that matter. In this particular case, I think that the brand in question has approached the matter wrongly. It’s like bringing a machine gun to a stick fight. It’s not as if the lady in question is a big social media influencer with millions of followers to justify all the hullabaloo.

Adopting interpersonal relationship could help solve a lot of problems for brands. In 2016, I bought a tin of Ovaltine in Awka, Anambra state, and felt shortchanged by the contents. I wrote about it on my Facebook page. The brand managers of Ovaltine quietly sought me out and came all the way from Lagos to make amends. They brought replacement packs etc and I also wrote about it. Case closed. (See munched screenshots). The brand did not threaten me neither did they arrest me. That’s top notch brand management in my view. In any dispute, brands should aim to please, satisfy and retain their customers. That way, the customer will come back and repeat purchases from the customer, his or her associates, friends and family will be guaranteed.

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This is the reason why we have money back guarantees in the Western world. It’s for incidents like the one involving the lady and the tin tomato manufacturer. Brands that trust their products should be able to guarantee such products, and give the customer an opportunity for a replacement product or to get refund of his or her money if the customer is not completely satisfied with the value the product has delivered.

I suggest that the brand in question settles this matter amicably with the lady, invite her for a factory tour and product tasting. They should also consider appointing her a brand ambassador because through this incident, she has been able to generate increased brand awareness, social media buzz and top of mind awareness (TOMA) for the tin tomato brand.

Dr. Uche Nworah Facebook Page. (uchenworah@yahoo.com)

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