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Social Media is Not for the Weak and When Brands Should Ignore Their Customers

Posted by on November 14, 2009


I came across two posts today that I wanted to share with you.  The first one is by Al Ries called “Social Media Not the Answer for Weak Brands,” and the second post is called “When Big Brands SHOULDN’T Listen to Their Customers.”  Both of these posts highlight valuable lessons and learnings from the social media world which is why I wanted to share them with you here.  Let’s start off with the post by Al Ries.

In Al’s post he basically argues that social media are a set of tactics that come from a much larger strategic focus.  Al also states that social media is not going to save companies that aren’t doing well; companies have larger issues to focus on before getting involved in the social media space.  I completely agree with Al and while I do think that tools such as Twitter and Facebook are valuable, I don’t think that they should be put ahead of a marketing/business strategy; they should be treated as what they are, tools.  A company that has a poor marketing strategy is not going to be able to compensate for that by creating a Facebook or Twitter account.  I highly recommend that everyone read Al’s post as he provides some great examples and ideas.  Again, the point is that social media is not going to solve all of your company’s problems, you have to start with your higher level business strategies; those need to be sound before you do anything else.

The second post on when big brands shouldn’t listen to their customers is a great example of when a brand needs to stand it’s ground.  In the post, Aerocles (pen name) sites the Gap and the AFA which is boycotting the Gap for not including the word “Christmas” on all of its marketing and advertising campaigns and collateral.  The Gap does do a lot of holiday promotion but in order to stay impartial to any religion or holiday the company avoids actually using the word Christmas.  The argument that the AFA makes is absolutely ridiculous and Aerocles make a great point in his article.  If the Gap uses Christmas in its advertising then shouldn’t it also talk about Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and all the other holiday’s as well?  The whole point of this post highlights this example as an instance in which a company (Gap) should NOT listen to its customers (the AFA is getting Gap customers to boycott their stores).

I highly recommend that you read both of these posts and think about the scenarios and examples that are presented in both of them.  There is a lot that we can apply from these articles in future social business efforts.

What did you think of the two articles?

  • keybanks

    Wrong wrong wrong! Ask any retailer about the seasonality of their business, and they will tell you that they do at least half of their annual volume during the “Christmas” season. Not the “Hanukkah” season, or the “Kwanzaa” season. The GAP is, like everyone else it seems, voluntarily surrendering their right to speak the truth. There is no requirement for them to be religious, much less christian, but to deny the very season that is the crux of retailing is, well…..Stupid.

    • Hi Key,

      The point remains the same. If Gap, which has had a policy of not mentioning xmas in their marketing collateral all of a sudden starts mentioning it; they are going to have a far larger problem on their hands. It's easy to see this from a practical business standpoint however the reality is that if they do start mentioning xmas then other religious groups are going to have a field day with them. I agree with Gaps stance, they should do nothing and stick to doing things the way they have always been doing them

      • keybanks

        Thanks for the response, but I just saw a Gap commercial in which they did mention Christmas, Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa. Classic case of trying to please everybody, which pleases nobody. Remember when Levi's was by far the number one seller of jeans? Same time frame when Sears was the worlds number one retailer, denying the importance of upstart Wal-Mart.


  • social media is just another marketing channel, if you don't have the right message to market match then it's not really going to help you, if you have a poor reputation then it's just going to make things worse but then again, it does help you to keep a pulse on what is happening within your market, so, i suppose it just depends on how you handle it, i don't think there is one rule for everyone to follow

    • Hi Dj,

      I don't think social media is another marketing channel at all; it goes far beyond that. I do agree with you though, there definitely is not one rule for everyone to follow.

  • dmhamel1

    It's interesting to see this 2009 holiday season how retailers are approaching “Christmas” in social media. On Facebook, many seem to be almost ignoring it. Yet a brand like Macy's (yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus), can hardly avoid it.

  • dmhamel1

    It's interesting to see this 2009 holiday season how retailers are approaching “Christmas” in social media. On Facebook, many seem to be almost ignoring it. Yet a brand like Macy's (yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus), can hardly avoid it.