Editor’s Letter: Brands Face Challenges Relating to Consumers and Avoiding Missteps

Customers demand superior service and a stellar reputation

According to Accenture Interactive’s Global Consumer Pulse 2018, 23 percent of U.S. consumers have higher expectations of customer service than a year ago.
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When it happens, it moves so fast that your initial feeling is disorientation. That quickly flips to nausea, fear and then panic. I’m of course talking about a brand crisis unfolding before the world, supercharged by social media and shared and commented on into oblivion. You’ve been dragged.

It’s a tough position for both individuals and brands to be in, and dealing with reputation management in its wake can be even trickier. In this fifth Digital Transformation Playbook in partnership with Accenture Interactive, we unpack how brands relate to their customers in good times and bad. (See above right to launch an AR breakdown of the report, powered by The Glimpse Group, from Accenture Interactive managing director in North America Glen Hartman.)

There are countless examples of brand missteps, but how those brands respond is the real story. Sometimes it’s a turnaround save. Just last month KFC in the U.K. was able to parlay a shortage of chicken in its restaurants into clever social media play that mitigated a potentially brand-damaging event. Not so much for Equifax and Volkswagen, which took a more black ops approach to reputation management with lies, misinformation and, perhaps worst of all, detachment—the customer journey … to hell.

And in this age of the digitally empowered consumer, that is brand suicide. Consider some of these stats from our infographic. According to Accenture Interactive’s Global Consumer Pulse 2018, 23 percent of U.S. consumers have higher expectations of customer service than a year ago. Of those, 69 percent expect that service to be easier and convenient to obtain, 67 percent expect it to be faster and 40 percent expect more digital options.

In other words, these are tough customers that demand brands have a stellar reputation and super serve their needs when and wherever they are expressed. There are tools, strategies and philosophies that have come online to help brands navigate the presence of risk in their marketing efforts. In her opinion piece, Bronwyn van der Merwe suggests that we are in a conversation renaissance in which brand identities must be in dialogues with consumers or risk going unheard and unloved.

In his Q&A with Adweek technology editor Josh Sternberg, Harlan Loeb, the head of Edelman’s risk mitigation practice, has developed a tool kit bristling with “deep, broad, social analytics; instant real-time analytics that can gauge sentiment; gauge reach; gauge influence; gauge curation—all of the elements that contribute to the temperature or the din of the digital wildfire.”

And in his regular back page Winners’ Playbook, contributor Dan Tynan offers up four courses of crisis action: Get your plans together, triage the problem, respond quickly on social and be honest, transparent and direct. Words—and strategy—to live by.

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This story first appeared in the March 12, 2018, issue of Adweek magazine. Click here to subscribe.

@jcoopernyc james.cooper@adweek.com James Cooper is editorial director of Adweek.