A Brand Derailed
It happened. For the first time in Croatian history, Twitter became a social weapon of choice that made a local #trend spill over into traditional media. There was no campaign behind it though, because the whole thing just exploded – out of sheer frustration.
It all started with HŽ (Hrvatske Željeznice), a national (and only) railway company, trying to crowdsource their new travel coach slogan from “eager, enthusiastic students”. Now, if you know anything about online crowdsourcing, there are some things to consider for a brand campaign like that before you try and make it happen.
First – make sure your brand isn’t hated among the general populace. That usually helps. Second – have some history of online interaction with your consumers, a two-way dialogue that helps build confidence in the brand and, in return, provides you with insights about the pulse of your audience. Third – know your each and every weakness. And understand it better than anyone.
Most importantly – when online, it’s your brand that needs to listen, not (just) vice-versa.
Unfortunately, HŽ didn’t spend too much time thinking about any of the above, so their crowdsourcing campaign instantly became a joke of epic proportions. The online community took over the challenge and in just a couple of hours made hundreds of “slogans” about HŽ having the slowest, most irregular trains on the planet. Sadly, this isn’t far from the truth.
Using the #HŽslogan hashtag, the whole trend exploded on Twitter and quickly made it’s way to all the major media in the country and surrounding region. It was (and as I’m writing this, it still is) the first time Twitter made it big in Croatia. Local Facebook has already seen trends like these and last year had examples of quite successful memes taking place, but for Twitter, this is popping the cherry.
So, what should HŽ do right now? The answer is – nothing. It should let the whole thing play itself out, stand up, take a bow and take their leave without a reply or an applause. Because this case is very simple. A brand that fails in the real world cannot achieve success online. Nor it should expect any.
The premise that HŽ and any brand with a similar brand image needs to consider is that the online community is actually a consumer that fights back. He talks back at your logo and yells back at your TVC or billboard. It’s the social channels that allow him a strong and visible voice. And the media is always watching the exchange, waiting for something juicy to happen for the headlines. Just look at the American Airlines official Twitter incident from a few days ago. That “communication plane” went down in flames capturing the interest of the media – worldwide. With just one tweet.
A positive example of a brand hitting the sweet spot with the #HŽslogan was the case of the official @ZadarAirport channel that used this whole ordeal to invite people to fly instead of taking the slow train. It was quick, smart and right on spot.
— Zračna luka Zadar (@ZadarAirport) April 17, 2014
Whether it’s crowdsourcing, tweeting or just plain old FB posts, your brand needs to reflect the values and promises it delivers – back in the real world. If it’s not delivering you need to improve your business and customer service before asking for “enthusiastic consumer engagement”. Otherwise, you might just discover what a train wreck looks like online.