Brands + Gossip: What Could Go Wrong?


Brands like people talking about them in a positive way. Brands love when fans adore them and signify that their life is better because Brand X is in it. This is the Pleasantville of marketing. Reality isn’t so generous. Sometimes the product doesn’t live up to the brand and sometimes the brand doesn’t live up to the product.

Questions, speculations, myth and fan expectations can turn a product and/or brand into consumer gossip. Apple announced the launch of the iPhone 4S, still a kick-ass phone but not the iPhone 5 we were all hoping for. What does the ‘33’ stand for on the Rolling Rock bottle? Why are AT&T cell phone signals so bad in New York and San Francisco?

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We spoke with our good friend Nick Denton, self-proclaimed Gossip Merchant at Gawker.  We asked Nick how can brands navigate the gossip about them and how Gawker can help them. He brought up three really good points that changed how we view things over here at BBH Labs:

1) Are we listening to the right crazies?
We let people with more time on their hands be more influential. Nick wants this to change. He doesn’t think time is a true metric of influence. He wants to emphasize those that are actually interesting in what they comment about. Why can’t brands do the same?

2) Create a safe space for conversations
Earlier this year BBH Labs wrote a post about Social Flings and this particular tactic falls into that camp. Brands need places where they can answer honestly and openly without general fear of attack. Perhaps AT&T invites an Engineer to explain the cell phone signal issues in New York and San Francisco? Lean into the controversy and squelch it. Gawker network wants to be that safe place for brands with a new offering launching sometime next year.

3) Brands need to be interesting as well
Brands (or brand hired celebrities) can join the conversation online and be a peer. Brands have a point of view on the world beyond their primary business. One example we like to use is, ‘If Red Bull the brand left a review on a skateboard that was being sold on Amazon we would find that review credible.’ If brands appeared in these spaces it could change consumer perception in a very interesting and unboring way.

What do you think of these points? Are we missing anything? Can we look at brand gossip in a new way?


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