Not Too Chicken To Have A Beef

by , Aug 21, 2012, 7:06 AM
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No doubt the entire world has watched the Chick-Fil-A (CFA) media storm brew and boil over the past few weeks. Regardless of your stance on the issue(s) at hand, as a marketer, you need to pay extra close attention to the power of “The Buycott.”

Enterprise-minded consumers have so many outlets in which to vent their support and opposition to your brand and brand identity in the digital age: social media, email, mass text campaigns and visual demonstration, to name a few. It bears repeating again that CRM has much to do with your reaction (or lack thereof) to the winds of change with consumers and topical hot-buttons as breathlessly reported by the media in a 24-hour news cycle.

However, in the case of CFA, the packed parking lots, miles of cars in line and patrons queued up in lines around the buildings across the country sent a very public message that the wallet is the prime tool of measurement in terms of support. Are you prepared to handle the “Buycott/Boycott” method of consumer protest?

As reported in this space a few months ago about Spirit Airlines and the poorly handled CEO debacle, customers are clearly more emboldened than ever to speak their mind and take action to ensure they are heard! In the days before the “digital opinion,” it was easy to brush aside a few nasty letters or “guerrilla evangelists” who may hold a sign outside your headquarters for two or three cars to honk at. In fact, most companies, especially large ones, shrugged their shoulders with indifference when customers went rogue and wanted attention.

Today, that has all changed.

The CFA “call and response” by consumers was purely generated by rapid virility of social media and email campaigns meant to get the attention of politicians, media, ideologues and business-watchers alike. Despite the deep chasm of reasons (pick one: freedom of speech, religious choice, free enterprise, traditional values, attention, hunger), people stood in line for hours, and the message was clear that they would make themselves heard. Unafraid and undaunted by the challenge of those who purposely did not go (or the purported media backlash taking predictable sides on the issue), consumers and their behavior reminded us in sharp focus that they are still in charge.

What does this have to do with CRM?

A lot.

Like the work of a crop-duster, your social media efforts will be peppered with messages, photos and polls and your brand name and logo will be repurposed on graphics and signs depicting pretty much any and all positions in a perverse brand equity you no longer control. (Any third-grader with Photoshop can do that now.) Your inbox will be full with unsubscribes, new subscribers, opponents, proponents, haters, fans and aforementioned fire and brimstone.

Sales will either boom exponentially or flat-line to fatalistic depths. Your brand may become a lightning rod, representing whichever position best fits the interpretive angle of the consumer. 

… and most specifically, if you think this is just a PR problem that has no effect on your marketing, you are dead wrong.

Consumers now have unlimited access to you, your brand and your messaging and while the actual “truth” in that statement lies somewhere between it is the perception of the consumer than they can say/show up/behave and buycott/boycott all they want. How you prepare and answer for those inevitable circumstances lies in your CRM and how well you are fortified to handle the onslaught.

Essentially, prepare for the beef without being chicken.

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