Wednesday, 15 April 2009

YouTube's Dark Side for Marketers

Comment to Mark Wnek's (Lowe's Chief Creative) article on Forget Domino's; YouTube Video Is Crime Against Working People

Dear fellow commenters, let's not be literal, here! 
Mr. Wnek's point is not really about this incident being an affront to the working class (although his "fortunate to have the time and resources not to have to eat fast food" comment does reveal a couple of less-than-admirable traits that are actually essential to the success of a top Creative), he is pointing, rather to the power that YouTube and new technology gives to a couple of teens who don't yet possess the maturity (brain development) to understand the consequences of their actions. Incredible destructive power. Uncensored power. INSTANTANEOUS power. And, in this case, quite unintentional. As an uncle to a few teens, I can assure you that these two were just trying to get a laugh and were hoping for 15 minutes of fame, the same motivation driving 100% of all bloggers and tweeters. 
This is the phenomenon, the risk, that Wnek is holding up to scrutiny. It's something to think about. If these two idiots can do this, what else is possible? Look at the damage that another 'idiot' did to both the reputation of Michael Phelps and Kellogg's (through the subsequent PR action they felt was required) with a simple photo post of Phelps doing something that hundreds of thousands of people are doing in the privacy of homes around the world every evening. Wnek is reacting to the risk inherent in trusting the empowered few to NOT manipulate the masses with things that can ignite visceral reactions. 
We've seen the power that a few reactionary people, who might have agendas and/or emotional issues we know nothing about, can garner with access to Twitter and other social networking sites/tools. They can do it during a long weekend when a company/brand has no one in the office to take appropriate action. The protests they're making might have no basis in reality, yet the damage is done, nonetheless. In the new 'experience economy', a single bad 'experience' (like one viewing of a podcast) can alter perceptions as indelibly as one good one. 
The flag that Mark Wnek is waving is very red, and very large. No, we don't have to become paranoid, necessarily, but it is something we need to be thinking about -- and planning contingencies for. It used to be only one little old lady from Pasadena who marketers had to worry about, now it's the entire 'the consumer is now in charge' population, and there's always going to be a slice of them who are unscrupulous, or just plain stupid. THAT is the thought I believe he was raising.

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