Haters Gonna Hate: How Brands Should React

In today’s world where blogging and social media provide multiple platforms for activists and customers to voice their opinions, businesses (big and small) are continually feeling pressure and hearing overwhelming amounts of criticism not for anything the company has necessarily “done” but for who they are or what they believe. It makes me think about these three important questions:

  1. Should brands correct their haters or let the criticism fizzle out?
  2. How can brands not get consumed by the negativity and survive the heat?
  3. What are some real-world responses from brands under attack?

Voicing Your Stance

First and foremost, it’s not about fighting back against activists, community members, other brands or angry customers, but rather it’s about letting your fans and followers know your stance and mission for your company. Not everyone is going to agree with what your company represents or sells. It’s important to voice your company’s view point, beliefs and values to your customers, so they can better understand your company and its goals. Staying silent and letting any criticism fizzle out can sometimes be an appropriate approach, especially if it’s contained to a certain platform or hasn’t become viral. However, in the majority of cases, staying silent reflects poorly on the brand especially in an age where transparency of brands is highly favorable.

Cooling Things Down

  1. Try your best to anticipate upsets and harsh criticism based on your company’s past experiences as well as other brands’ success or fallouts due to this type of outrage.
  2. Be tasteful and appropriate in your response whether that’s through a press release, video or posts on social platforms. Avoid negative language or pointing blame onto others such as competitors or activists.
  3. Remain true to your messages and beliefs. Remember, it’s all about your company’s mission.
  4. After addressing the issue at hand, continue to be proactive in the community and with public relations efforts. Just because negativity has occurred, doesn’t mean it should stay that way because critics want it to. Begin taking steps to move past the issue and highlight the positive aspects about your company and what you have to offer.
  5. Make it easy to create and share positive experiences with the brand. Utilize hashtags to solicit positive contributions and embed easy-to-use sharing functions into your website or blog.

Showing Your Success: Three Real-World Examples

Mattel’s Barbie
Mattel in recent years has faced significant challenges with overcoming criticism of its Barbie products and her proposed connection to young girls’ view of a healthy body image. Activists and competitors alike have attacked the company expressing that Barbie displays an unrealistic body image and is limited in scope to its use — focusing on fashion and beauty exclusively rather than other areas such as math and science for young girls. After years of debate and negativity, Mattel has recently responded with its own campaign, the #barbieproject. The campaign reminds fans and community members of its mission as a company and that Barbie is about imagination — a best friend to explore the world with and create a limitless amount of stories. As part of the campaign, the company created a video to highlight their point of view as well as demonstrate how young girls “actually” interact with their doll rather than how critics claim. Additionally, Barbie has teamed up with nine mom bloggers to feature their children’s adventures with the doll and encourages families and their young girls to share their Barbie Project Story online.

Honey Maid
Honey Maid debuted its #thisiswholesome campaign through video advertising that celebrates all types of families including gay dads, rocker families, military dads and interracial families, with the most air time given to the homosexual couple. Some were outraged by the spot and posted reactions similar to the recent Cherrios and Coke ads. Anticipating this response but wanting to state their values and beliefs of what “wholesome” really means and how families have changed over the years, Honey Maid created a video to take all of the hatred and social comments regarding their beliefs of inclusiveness and turn it into a work of love.

Atomic Grill
Backlash and negative feedback doesn’t occur for just big brands. No, small businesses can be just as heavily hit. One local restaurant in Morgantown, West Virginia, recently received an inappropriate suggestion from a guest in which he asked for the restaurant’s waitresses to “show more skin.” Instead of ignoring the feedback, the owner responded to the insensitivity and offensive suggestion by creating a “Show Our Skins” campaign that featured a special on loaded potato skins. One hundred percent of the sales from the campaign were donated to the West Virginia Foundation for Rape Information and Services program. For a small company to not only take the time to respond to this one comment but then one up it with such positivity — well, that’s just awesomeness.

Photo via Atomic Grill's Facebook Page
Photo via Atomic Grill’s Facebook Page

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