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Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Attack of the Customers

Colleague, correspondent and former co-fellow of mine at  SNCR Paul Gillin has written a book on customer attacks using social media:

Attack of the Customers: Why Critics Assault Brands Online and How To Avoid Becoming a Victim  by Paul Gillin with Greg Gianforte.

I have started to read this excellent book. I discovered that the first chapter included a detailed example from my former enterprise, Procter & Gamble.  I was especially intrigued because I had been peripherally involved with the early use of social media in the company.  Just how do you address customer attacks? How do you detect them before they start to steamroll?  What are the ideal reactions?

As they state:  "This book is about how to anticipate, prepare for and defend your organization against customer attacks, but more importantly its an argument for building an orgaization that values critics as allies ... " 

The example is about the 2010 rollout of the Pampers Dry Max line.    The new disposable diaper product was mercilessly criticized in the social press as allegedly causing serious diaper rashes in babies that used it.  It was also claimed that the supply chain was already substituting the product well before it was being identified in the marketing.    Thus giving customers no chance to make a clear choice.

Historically P&G, as a large consumer products company, has experienced this kind of rumor explosion before.  But this newest example is beyond the era of the mimeograph machine.  Social media like Facebook and Twitter change the volatility and speed of both exposure and reactions.  The chapter covers the role of social media in the start of the rumor, how it spread, and how P&G reacted.  Gillin makes the point that P&G did not make perfect decisions, but could quickly see what worked versus what did not.   Nicely documented.

Books themselves are often too slow a medium to address activities like Twitter.  Gillin has done a good job of extracting excellent examples that deliver key examples of the new world of the customer in social media and how to prepare for attacks online.

I will follow with more commentary about the book as I progress. Nice approach which includes many dissimilar case studies.  So far an excellent read about how a very big company reacted to customer social media.

You can read part of the Dry Max chapter in CMO magazine.   And here is the book's Facebook page.

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