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Redskins Need a Lesson in Branding

If you follow the #smsports feed on Twitter, you may have caught the discussions about Tim Tebow’s move from the Denver Broncos to the NY Jets during the NFL trades.  You may also have caught some buzz about a particular tweet that appeared on the @Redskins feed today. The tweet that started the discussions began with a comment about Tebow’s move:


[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/#!/Redskins/status/182526346185015296″]


Was that the view of the team? Everyone who works for the Redskins agreed that it was an awkward fit? Collective opinion? Most of us could see that it was not the Redskins organization that held that opinion, but the person in charge of the Twitter account, Gary Fitzgerald. So when @dcsportsblog called him out on the comment, the Redskins feed posted:


[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/#!/Redskins/status/182531179784847360″]


And that was exactly the point. Just an opinion.  On a corporate, team or business Twitter account, personal opinions of the tweeter have no place in the feed.  This echoes the GM scandal awhile back when an employee made a nasty comment about the driving capabilities of his fellow citizens, a tweet which appeared to be from GM itself. Major hiccup which led to the firing of the employee who tweeted the statement.

Those of us who were chatting about the Redskins comments agreed that the team had not only misstepped by tweeting a personal opinion as representation of the view of the organization, but also really missed an opportunity to bring their 93k fans into the conversation.  Instead of letting Gary tweet his personal opinions (which weren’t even positive), why not stimulate conversation with a simple question, “What do you think about Tim Tebow’s move to the Jets?” Redskins fans react, discuss and grow affinity for their own team and the Redskins positively impact engagement. Win.

It was clear that Gary picked up our tweets, as we all made sure to include the @Redskins handle in most of our conversations.  A few hours later, this comment appeared:


[blackbirdpie url=”https://twitter.com/#!/Redskins/status/182569952820211713″]


Again, a misguided employee tweets something inappropriate for the brand. The Redskins need to yank that computer away from Gary Fitzgerald and let him understand that he needs to stop injecting Redskins communication with his own personality.  The above tweets were not edgy, informative nor entertaining. The Redskins allowed the person in charge of Twitter to share his personal opinions as though they were the opinions of the team and everyone within the Redskins organization.

What is clear, then is that the Redskins have lost their grip on their brand’s core values. They do not have a clear brand message and certainly, they have no social media guidelines for employees to follow. It looks like Gary runs redskins.com, which also makes me question who they’ve assigned to communicate their brand messaging. Is the webmaster the right person to manage the Twitter feed? What value does the Redskins organization place on social media if they just toss the duties to the web department? Why not hire a branding, marketing or communications professional?

More important than the lack of internal organization and training, the Redskins simply don’t understand that Twitter provides more than a forum for information and entertainment. They could have used the Tebow news to their advantage to spark dialogue with fans, and shed some positive light on their brand. Sure, they would have been talking about Tim Tebow and the Jets and possibly even Denver and Manning, but they would have engaged their fans on the topic of football during a crucial time in the off-season. There were so many opportunities missed here, mistakes made, and that’s why their comments came into focus – for all the wrong reasons.

My course of action for the Redskins?

1. Do an organization-wide branding exercise so all employees are aware of the brand’s identity and messge

2. With all employees, players and coaches, provide social media education and training

3. Consult with the marketing and communications staff to integrate social media throughout their marketing and business plans.

4. Reassign the Twitter responsibilities to someone who understands that they speak for the brand, and that every letter they type needs to be in-line with brand messaging. “Just an opinion” is never something we should see from a brand like the Redskins.



There’s a problem with your Google+ profile

That was the lovely message I saw when I logged onto Google+ this morning.  Let me start by saying that I don’t actually visit my Google+ accounts everyday.  If the darn thing were integrated into my Hootsuite, then I would post a lot more often. Just as Google built Google+ as an afterthought, so is my interaction on the site. I have to actually remind myself to visit, post, red and interact.

So when I do login and see this notice, I grow a little less patient with the site.

There’s a problem with your Google+ profile

It appears that the name you entered does not comply with the Google+ Names Policy.

The Names Policy requires that you use the name that you are commonly referred to in real life in your profile. Nicknames, previous names, and so on, should be entered in the Other Names section of the profile. Profiles are limited to individuals; use Google+ Pages for businesses and other entities.

If you do not edit your name to comply with the Names Policy or appeal with additional information by March 21, 2012, your profile will be suspended: you will not be able to make full use of Google services that require an active profile, such as Google+, Buzz, Reader, and Picasa. This will not prevent you from using other Google services, like Gmail.

We understand that Google+ and its Names Policy may not be for everyone at this time. We’d be sad to see you go, but if you do choose to leave, make a copy of your Google+ data first. Then, click here to disable Google+.


Umm. Ok? So do you want me to verify my name, or do you want me to leave? You seem awfully eager for me to disable my account. Hmm. Well, I’ll go ahead and appeal the flagging of my name, as that is my name, it’s what everyone calls me and I simply refuse to add my middle name to the mix to make this fully legal.

When I clicked the appeal link, this message popped up:

Your profile is being reviewed

Thank you for submitting your profile for review. Your profile will be reviewed again to see if it complies with our Names Policy. Reviews are usually completed within a few days. In the meantime, you have full access to Google+ and all other Google services.

If the review is successful, this message will disappear and you can continue using Google+. Otherwise, you’ll be informed that the review was unsuccessful and provided with further instructions.

We’re sorry for the inconvenience.

We understand that Google+ and its Names Policy may not be for everyone at this time. We’d be sad to see you go, but if you do choose to leave, make a copy of your Google+ data first. Then, click here to disable Google+.

The only part of that message that is right on the money is this: We understand that Google+ and its Names Policy may not be for everyone at this time.  I’m certainly not digging it! And again, what’s with the encouragement to see me go?

I was a bit frustrated with these two messages, and posted publicly to Google+:

Hey Google+ – What’s up? My real name isn’t good enough for you? You may suspend my account? You state at the end of your explanation that “our Name Policy may not be for everyone at this time.” Also that I am welcome to leave Google+? I may take you up on your suggestion if you don’t find my real and commonly used name a fit for your policy. Absolutely ridiculous!!!!!

Apparently, others have had issues to and lent some empathy. Finally, a Google engineer chimed in:

Yonatan Zunger  –  Hrm, seems like a false positive to me. Will check. 

That makes me feel sooo much better! So, I thoughtfully crafted this response:

Shanna Bright  –  +Yonatan Zunger Since you are with Google, may I suggest that you warm up the communications to your users. This paragraph: 

We understand that Google+ and its Names Policy may not be for everyone at this time. We’d be sad to see you go, but if you do choose to leave, make a copy of your Google+ data first. Then, click here to disable Google+.

…comes across as a suggestion to leave. Telling users that you/they are not a good fit comes across as a suggestion to leave. I’m already finding it difficult to make time to update my Google+ as I do not have Hootsuite integration….so Google+ is an afterthought in my social networking activity. When I do log on and find that I’m not considered “real” or “acceptable” or that I don’t fit policy… or now that I’m a false positive… it makes me even less enthusiastic to participate. There is much friendlier language that could be used which would not alienate your current users. Example?

Hey Shanna Bright! Your name is so unique, our computers think it might not be real. Can you click here and help us verify your name for us. If this is your nickname, that’s cool, but we need to list your profile name as the name you are commonly referred to. You nickname can now be entered here…

Something along those lines….. See what I mean?


While I did not receive a response to my suggestion, I was delighted that my good name was finally cleared:

Yonatan Zunger  –  +Shanna Bright We cleared the bit and you should be OK now. I’m sorry about that message — you got the “we’re pretty sure you’re a spammer / spambot” message. We’re tracking down why these false positives happened in the first place now; this shouldn’t have happened.


To which I replied:

Shanna Bright  –  +Yonatan Zunger Thank you for looking into this and for clearing my name. I’m glad to be considered a human again and not a spambot. I hope my profile doesn’t trigger any false positives in the future. Please do consider submitting my suggestion for brand communication style changes. Thank you – SB


At the end of this experience with Google, I feel a bit beaten up. I don’t feel valued, I don’t feel human and it seems my suggestion for warming up their communications fell of deaf ears.  But really…what a missed opportunity to positively interact with your users and inject your brand identity and core values into the conversation.  Definitely does nothing to welcome me back to the site and rev up my interaction levels.

This is really something to consider though. Your brand identity needs to be stamped in every communication from your company or personal accounts.  This means your invoices, error messages, receipts, tweets, updates, posts… everything.  Because one little slip – like a stupid little false positive name issue – leaves an impression with your clients. They interpret these messages as part of your brand values.  In this case, Google leaves me with the “cold shoulder” impression. Not once was a “thank you,” “we appreciate you,” or even “good idea” remarked. Google+ missed the opportunity to make me a fan. Instead, the network will remain nothing but an afterthought.

MINI Mistake

I was at my parents’ house when they asked me if I had heard about MINI’s massive recall. Actually, I hadn’t caught the news, hadn’t received an e-mail from MINI nor did I catch it in any of my social media feeds.

When I got home, I easily found an article about the recall:  CLICK HERE

I combed through my e-mails just to make sure that I didn’t miss something or that the significant letter didn’t land in spamville. Curiously, nothing.  I started to get a little worried. So I went hunting online to see what I could find.

On the MINI USA twitter feed, there was ONE tweet that addressed the issue, dated January 18th:

I couldn’t understand why MINI was addressing owners after the news had been posted. I couldn’t find anything on the website and I imagined that the phone lines would be tied up. So I tweeted to MINI hoping for some information:

Much to my surprise, I received a call from MINI about 20 minutes later. They received my tweet, looked my name up and contacted me. The woman on the phone told me that it looked my vehicle would be affected and that they were collecting their information before they sent out letter to owners affected by the recall.  I gave her two suggestions:

1. Put up a page on the website where owners could enter their VIN number to see if their car was affected. If the VIN number was a hit, let them know that an e-mail or official letter would be forthcoming.

2. Send out an e-mail, a letter or post a message on the website acknowledging the recall and letting MINI owners know that correspondence would be arriving soon.

I explained that MINI owners shouldn’t have to learn through third parties that their cars may be a part of a massive recall. That new should have come directly from MINI, well before it went public.

I did give MINI a shoutout for responding to my tweet with a phone call:

Today, February 22, I finally received the “official” letter in the form of an e-mail from MINI of San Diego, where I got my car. It said:


Attention all MINI “S” model owners only

Your vehicle may be involved in a product part update for your auxiliary water pump. Please reply to this email with:

Your Name – and if possible the last 7 of your vehicle identification number [located on the driver’s side lower windshield corner]

please email Terry Zito at: [email protected]


And so I responded with the appropriate information and received another e-mail which said only:


VIN #######

Your vehicle has no open recalls per MINI data base and OR is equipped with the updated part.

Thank you again for your business


And that was it. No “Dear Shanna” no signature, no personalization or possibility to exceed my expectations.  So I decided to call the ASK MINI number which was previously tweeted. A man answered this time and I explained the chain of events. I told him that I was confused because the woman I spoke with previously had told me that “it looks like your vehicle is affected.” He asked me who I spoke with (the one time I didn’t actually jot down a name!) because there was “no record of the call” and that my vehicle VIN number was definitely not part of the recall. He then asked me, “How many miles do you have on your vehicle?” And when I told him, he said, “That’s about the same you told us in the last call.”  So I told him, “When I called MINI the last time, that was the first time I called. And the woman I spoke with also asked me for the mileage on my car. So if that is the case, how do you know that that was the mileage I reported in the last call if you have no record of my phone call?”  He was clearly embarrassed and then made the excuse that he was confused.  I ended by telling him that the communication from MINI has been less than stellar, and that as a MINI owner, I simply want to understand if my car has been affected. I also explained that I am not the one who should have to seek out the information, but that MINI should be overly accommodating and make it as easy as possible for owners to get information.

As much as I love my MINI, this episode was thoroughly disappointing. Not only did they not deliver what they promise, but the lack of communication and the strange manner in which they quietly handled this… it’s just not in-line with their brand.  It’s a good lesson for other brands.  Sometimes things happen that are unfortunate. Sometimes mistakes happen.  But if you are a solid brand, you own up to it, and take responsibility for the situation. You can actually take advantage of the situation to deliver your core values and strengthen your brand.

Have you ever had an experience where a brand that you love falls short of your expectations? How did your opinion of that brand change?







Social Media Report

Some people just don’t get social media.  And that’s ok, because the format is constantly evolving and changing and those of us who are enthusiastic participants like to try new ideas and see what sticks. But when you are attempting to make an authoritative report on the effectiveness of social media and purchase power, you probably better have a faint clue how social media works, and perhaps an inkling of how much power the medium has when used effectively.

THE PURCHASE PATH OF ONLINE BUYERS For eBusiness & Channel Strategy Professionals was released today by Forrester Research in cooperation with GSI Commerce.  The report comes to the conclusion that “The truth is that social tactics were largely ineffective in driving sales.”

I’m surprised that this report is receiving the attention that it is, given how flawed the reporting methods are. A few missed details with this report.

1.  Social Media

The report fails to answer some key questions. Namely: What social media outlets were engaged?  What messages were posted? How often were sites updated? Did retailers respond to mentions or did they ignore customer contacts? Did all 15 of the retailers use social media in the same exact manner, or was there a vast difference in tactics?

2. Timing

The report says, “Data was captured from November 12, 2010 to December 20, 2010. Thanksgiving weekend data was captured from 12 a.m. on November 25, 2010, through 11:59 p.m. on November 28, 2010. Cyber Monday data was captured on November 29, 2010. ”

So on November 12th, 18th, December 3rd and 13th for example, what time was the data captured? Was the data not being captured 24/7 between 11/12/2010 and 12/20/2010?  What reasoning was behind the choice of that time period (other than measuring effect on holidays sales)?  Is this a sufficient time period to determine effectiveness? Were social media updates being posted between working hours only or throughout a 24 hour period? Were messages posted every day?

3. Collection

The report offers measurement as “social media alone” as a touchpoint prior to purchase and focuses on the ineffectiveness of social media. If Forrester actually understood social media, they would understand that a well planned online marketing strategy would never consider social media alone, but a smart combination of online tactics. I don’t think any of us who are in the habit of helping businesses use social media would ever recommend a social media alone strategy, but would certainly insist that a no social media policy would in fact negatively impact sales as well as brand image and customer retention.

Clearly this report raises more questions than it provides answers.  And the few findings that are stated are so far off the mark, it’s laughable.  In fact, I would call it ineffective in driving social media strategies.


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