Saturday 20 September 2008

Blogging your way out of the recession

Blogging your way out of the recession, by Alexander Gallé, first published in Luxury Briefing September 2008 issue.


In my last column, I wrote that the recession might just prove to be an opportunity to rethink how luxury brands communicate with their audiences, and I received a couple of emails from readers asking how, specifically, this could be achieved. So, here it goes...

This time last year, someone on ASmallWorld started a forum about how bad Silverjet was. Silverjet was an airline offering first-class only seats from their own dedicated terminal at Luton to Newark. I was very impressed with the service and had actually bought some shares in the company as a result. So, I clicked on the subject and read about this person's misadventures when trying to change a flight, which was followed by a whole lot of replies from other members giving out misinformed opinions about the company and what it was trying to do. I started replying to the forum: how no other airline had their own terminal at Luton, how I had personally boarded the plane in less than 20 minutes from arrival, how it was the only airline with a Michelin-starred chef on board, how there just wasn't anything like it on the market except for chartering your own private jet, etc.

As it turned out, ASmallWorld were about to start hosting an ad campaign for Silverjet, so it occurred to someone to contact a friend at Silverjet and sort out the original poster's problem, which concluded the forum's exchange.

But I remember thinking later that this was a missed opportunity. Silverjet ended up spending a lot of money on a really, really silly online banner campaign that didn't actually inform the user about any of the service's unique selling points and, until the company's bankruptcy a few months later, nobody really 'got it'.

Somehow, there are still many companies, especially in the luxury sector, for whom blogging and social networks are still alien concepts. It just doesn't occur to anyone to simply start a blog representing the company's voice, or put forward its point of view on a forum. Or if it does, it's always a half-hearted idea to stick something on the back of the brand's own website, "where it's safe and we can delete negative comments", like a 21st-century version of Pravda. This territorial attitude simply won't do. It won't, because, whether you like it or not, your customers will talk about you, and they won't do it on your own website if they don't want to.

They'll do it on their own blogs, on industry-specific forums, on social networks, on their own website if they really feel strongly about it. Before you know it, someone hits a note, gets a following, the forum in question picks up momentum and shows up on Google's top-10 search results alongside your 'official' website. The next thing you know, a mainstream journalist asks you, the CEO, about it during an interview. You decide to call your PR company and tell them to do something about it, when the truth is you're the one who should personally be doing something about it, starting by listening online to what people have to say when they're not being asked the wrong questions in your expensive focus groups. These are people who, for the most part, cared enough about your brand or product to buy it and then voice their disappointment. Their conversation is happening, are you going to join in and rediscover your relevance to your customers?

Here is the opportunity: recessions, as a game of last man standing, are the perfect moment to rethink your advertising budget, and whether you're really getting a bang for your buck. This recession in particular is the first one that truly allows you to hear what your customers are telling you, and to say what you want them to hear. What are you waiting for? Start blogging your way out!   |