Tag Archives: marketing

The Social Media (non) Crisis Management of Maison Goyard

This is a story of new (money, culture, technology) smashing into old (quiet, refined, luxury) and what happens when the latter doesn’t understand the former. Those brands whose communications teams are not savvy to the nuances of social media court disaster and entrusting the reputation management of your brand to a junior staff member without critical thinking and strategic depth in their portfolio of skills can lead to a public relations nightmare.  Equally so this about how businesses need to be agile in our always on, 24/7, 365 digital world; your five year plan demands flexibility and responsiveness to what happens on social platforms. This is the paradigm shift, social media now drives the success of your business – in real time.

I watched just an epic fail in the clash of cultures represented by the 2016 MTV Video Music Awards and the 163 year old French luxury brand Goyard. Perhaps it is their storied history, or the fact that Goyard’s own head of communications is not on Twitter, or their (perceived) niche market does not rest with the Wild West of pop music or all three in combination with their Frenchness but when, (quite literally), handed the market expansion opportunity of the century Goyard blew it.

Back Story:

It started with a scarf, le carre en français, and the globally famous hip-hop artist and entrepreneur DJ Khaled (a major social media influencer with nearly 3m followers on Twitter alone) who loves the Goyard brand (whose Twitter account is less than 10K).

Goyard doesn’t make clothes so Khaled purchased several of their logoed silk scarves and had a bespoke, one-of-a-kind jacket made to wear while he hosted the (globally televised) VMAs, you can’t buy this kind of exposure. Mind you we are talking about dropping at least four and possibly six figures on this jacket, and if you recall Malcolm Gladwell’s The Tipping Point DJ Khaled is precisely the type of person that every brand covets to maintain their relevancy with changing market segmentations and to drive their brand and in particular revenue forward.

Unprepared, Goyard’s social media account manager started receiving tweets enquiring about the jacket (and other clothing items such as caps) during the VMA.  Sadly the Goyard replies were rude and frankly insulting (amongst these claiming that the scarf jacket was a fake – now all deleted from their feed).  Despite Goyard’s various tweets (it’s the internet so these live forever), DJ Khaled takes the high road and still promotes Goyard and makes nice publicly.

The PR crisis started on social media but it is still playing out in traditional and web-based media two days later. This ‘live forever’ storyboard has redefined the brand’s reputation with publications as wide ranging as Melty Style, New York Magazine, Luxury Daily, W Magazine, HipHopDx and the #SoSoShow covering the story. Maison Goyard just learned the hard reality that Twitter’s 313 million active users serve as a powerful force to be reckoned with; ignoring their immediate enquiries or, what’s worse, insulting them they will never forget and absolutely will find somewhere else to spend their money.

Goyard has been building its brand reputation for 163 years but because they failed to keep pace with societal shifts and the use of social platforms they have undone those efforts in mere seconds.  As the creator of a luxury brand, a connoisseur of beautiful things and as a communications professional the Goyard social media fail was painful for me to witness, inexcusable and avoidable. Goyard can take a ‘lessons learned’ and revamp their business with an agility that its heritage precludes and we, as a global audience, are not witnessing and they should be talking to Commarglo about how to rise like a phoenix from this episode.

 

Le Carre Jacket.png@djkhaled bought a bunch of@goyard

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Visit @Commarglo to learn more about leveraging social media for your brand.

 

 

 

 

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(Just) 10 reasons your brand can no longer “opt-out” of social media

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Image sourced from http://www.http:ownernation.us by VistaPrint

  1. The long lead times of traditional corporate communications and marketing no longer work in our always-on dynamic world. Real-time conversation now fuels new and existing B2C and B2B customers.
  2. An active, brand-relevant online presence enables customers to trust you.
  3. “Marketing today is not about what a company says about itself. It’s about what its customers say about the company” – and customers are now saying this on social media.
  4. Customer service is now social. Happy customers become brand evangelists who drive revenues. Want an example? See KLM.
  5. Your audience works, lives, and plays on their smartphones, fish where the fish are! One-fifth of leisure travellers worldwide use social platforms in their travel planning, and the hospitality vertical realises an average of an 11% conversion rate. The Economist made a studied investment last year in social media, and enjoyed a 31% increase in its subscription rate year-over-year.
  6. Social media as an SEO ranking signal is increasing in importance. 93% of online experiences begin through a search engine and SEO-based inbound leads (generated from online management) have a 14.6% close rate, while outbound leads (such as direct mail or print advertising) have a 1.7% close rate.
  7. Use social media to educate about new properties, rebranding efforts, and renovations and in doing so, hotels are selling out months before re-opening.
  8. Content marketing and executive branding objectives offered through social media establish thought leadership in months rather than the years required by traditional public relations efforts.
  9. Brand storytelling is now a necessity, not a luxury. Social media presence boosts brand recognition, marketing, and recruiting, while creating a richer customer experience. Treating employees as valued stakeholders aids in retention, cuts down on hiring and training costs and also creates a huge pool of brand ambassadors.
  10. If 90 year-old Queen Elizabeth II recognises the value of proactively managing her online reputation why haven’t you? Every CEO needs to get serious about the management of their professional reputation and that of their company to ensure that s/he controls the content. Managing your reputation online is a critical part of any integrated global marketing strategy and social media provides you with a fast, effective way to do this.

 

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Visit @Commarglo to learn more about leveraging social media for your brand.

Does your hotel really deserve Four (or more) Stars?

Every hotel and resort wants to avoid a disastrous TripAdvisor review of their property. And let’s be perfectly honest these posts are often simply conveying glaring truths written by someone in a nasty, snarky tone who has far too much time on their hands. In our social media driven world theseTrip comments have far reaching impact on your business, and almost universally what prompted them could have been avoided.

How much money do you spend annually on marketing your property? Has anyone from the agency handling all those efforts for you, including and especially social media marketing, EVER set foot on-site? Spent a night or two? Eaten in your restaurants? Used your facilities?  Prior to launching any initiative which will draw attention to your business let me share some practical advice with you; ensure that your property actually exceeds the copy being written by said agency.

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In Asia your bathroom could be outside meaning rocks, insects, amphibians, heat and humidity – #wearyourslippers

Over the years I have stayed in a wide range of Relais & Châteaux, Leading Hotels of the World, bed & breakfast inns and in the last year I have actually stayed in a couple of hostels. It’s safe to say I have accumulated a fair portfolio of impressions of ‘the good, the bad and the downright horrible’ and these extremes provide an ample baseline for what makes a memorable stay.

“Service is a promise that cannot be seen, touched, or felt through any of our external senses.” ~ Jag Randhawa

Every member of your staff has an impact.  While they are paid to ‘take care of us’ believe me when I say I can tell exactly who loves their work, people and your business. Equally so there are those who I stand in front of and wonder ‘who is this person related to?’ because there is absolutely no explanation for them otherwise having a job in the hospitality industry. My business partner was a guest at a hotel where we had previously stayed a year earlier for a mere three nights. On his arrival he was greeted with “Where’s Teresa?”. Why should this bell captain (of a luxury hotel in Istra, Croatia) who meets thousands of people a year and tends to all of their various pieces of luggage remember me?  What set him apart from his colleagues in the first place was his atttitude, and in turn that was rewarded with a note in an envelope with a tip on my departure. (I also take the time to make mention of extraordinary service in writing for the benefit of career advancement.) To guests reading this, when was the last time you did either?  When20150929_142514 thoroughly impressed I will likely ask to walk into your kitchens to praise the chef and the kitchen staff (usually resulting in a hug). Your wait staff, front desk staff, the concierge and the service staff usually know who I am because I ‘engage’ with everyone you have hired (and I do mean EVERYONE). And yes, I actively share on social media the (good) things that I notice.

“In bed my real love has always been the sleep that rescued me by allowing me to dream.”

~ Luigi Pirandello

It would be a great idea if management actually spent one night a week sleeping in every single room in rotation and applied a very critical evaluation to their sleep in said room. Springs that poke you in the back are not the way to win praise from your guests, replace them. The standard height for a chair or a sofa is between 26 and 30 inches so why would you let a designer convince you that a bed lower than this is optimal? Put your beds on a handsome frame, give the mattresses proper support and make them a height that anyone can sit on the edge of comfortably.  (I will also offer that the added height eases the stress on the backs of your housekeeping staff resulting in less days off or workman’s compensation claims.)

Those narrow strips of brocade or velvet at the foot of the bed are especially silly if they don’t even match the draperies or occasional pillows in the room, save the money, whereas a nice blanket is highly appreciated. You don’t have to turn down my bed and put a chocolate on the pillow (or offer me a small tray of them with a cordial – alcoholic or non) but it is very thoughtful.  Your sheets should be the highest quality your budget allows and there should never ever be a frayed hem, stain or hole in them. Same goes for towels, err on the side of generous in size and having thick terry robes or even lovely waffle woven ones wins serious points. It should be self-speaking that no guest should ever see black mold – you’d be amazed. Caulking should be maintained and/or replaced, facets and drains should work. Single use loofah mitts are biodegradable and eliminate the need for wash clothes (which seem to be an increasingly rare appointment in hotel bathrooms anyway).

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My pillows go everywhere.

I carry my own pillows with me.  Why? Because, with the greatest of exceptions, even fine hotels stock fiberfill pillows which are miserable and hot.

If your windows have three layers of curtains designed to ensure that your guests sleep well yet they are too short and the light creeps in (early morning or late night it doesn’t matter) – that’s an immediate fail. For goodness sake insist that the decorator add three inches to the overall length of the window PLUS whatever you need to hang them from rods to make certain that they cover your windows.

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Saddest. Plant. Ever.

Honest. This palm was sitting in the hallway leading to the wellness center and spa of a 5-star hotel I stayed at! Does this convey wellness to you? How many of staff members walked past this pitiful palm and yet didn’t ‘notice’ it?

Replace your lightbulbs! This should be perfectly logical but nothing says ‘down-on-the-heel’ or we’re not paying attention faster than a lightbulb here and there that is burned out.

Wi-Fi being slow isn’t even an option anymore. Test it. Put five staff members with devices in close proximity to one another throughout your facility and have them randomly watch videos, post photos and UPLOAD huge files – all the normal things we do as your guests – and if they can’t all do what they want simultaneously BUY MORE BANDWIDTH! Industry analytics are treading that (US) travelers (business and leisure) are now for swearing posh properties for value or economy hotels because these offer free, unlimited, always available Wi-Fi and luxury hotels are charging an additional $25 per day, per device. The old expression fits here “penny wise, pound foolish”.

Maintain your property with critical attention to detail. My business partner once waited 6 hours in a steam bath of a July hotel room for his AC to be fixed. He finally gave up and got into the shower only to finish and discover a ladder blocking access into his room and a man up in his ceiling finally dealing with the HVAC. This with no forewarning such as the simple courtesy of a knock on the door or a phone call! What’s more as the filter was taken down it was so caked with dust that an industrial vacuum was required to clean up the floor from beneath the ceiling to the door. Fail. Fail. Fail.

Which accommodation actually deserves four star designation? The bed & breakfast inn with exquisite (envelope) organic teas, made-to-order fresh truffle scrambled organic eggs, densely seeded home-baked bread (and a toaster) with small batch local fruit preserves or the hotel with Lipton 20150821_080944tea bags, buffet warmer scrambled eggs, with similar bread but no toaster and plastic packaged jams? It should be noted that the same bed and breakfast inn, staffed entirely by women, insisted on hauling my 35kgs of luggage upstairs (and then back down at check out) and the luxury hotel (staffed by muscled men) didn’t have a bell captain on duty.

I once left a pair of mixed suede and leather navy high heels outside my hotel room door at the Ritz-Carlton in Chicago for polishing, sadly they were returned in the morning universally polished (destroying the suede).  Management made it right by reimbursing me for a pair at the now defunct Marshall Field’s prior to my meeting later that day but training is obviously everything in preventing such ‘missteps’.

The realities of customer retention demand training your employees to become brand ambassadors in addition to their job descriptions. Everything that is right or wrong about your hospitality business is all too visible to your guests if not to you and your staff. It’s not an excuse but it’s easy to become inured to noticing details. Pay attention and you’ll never have to worry about how to bury bad reviews ever again.

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We’d like manage your online reputation and showcase your property with resonate content that will only serve to enhance your brand, grow your audience base to drive incremental revenue and ensure that ‘your story’ is the best it can possibly be. Get in touch. Visit @Commarglo to learn more about leveraging social media for your brand.

#IstraKT – Commarglo – Social Media Marketing – Čarobno!

Bill Ellis, Abundance (horse chomping at its bit).

While we still deployed our pre-marketing content in concert with the previous 10 weeks’ teams, I have been like a horse chomping at its bit for the last two months waiting for “our week” of the #ShareIstria contest to begin.

The #IstraKT team (of myself and my business partner Ken Herron), set our feet onto Istrian soil 24 July. Officially commencing at 00:00:01 25 July and ending 23:59:59 31 July we planned our week (when our social media efforts would actually count toward the competition) to be as though we were actually running a marketing campaign for the Istrian Tourist Board, and not simply capturing images of our experiences as scheduled by @VisitIstra.  We also recognised that our differentiation would be in providing vastly different content on various social media platforms from those efforts we had witnessed with more about Istra herself (and no selfies!) which would hopefully be more evocative and offer greater depth realising epic amplification. To say we are pleased with the results would be an understatement. No one will know who actually won the #ShareIstria contest until the Istrian Tourist Board (ITB) announces the results on 1 September.  That expressed, we know that regardless of the outcome, we ran a fabulous social media marketing effort for the ITB and are rightfully proud of our contribution to their campaign.

Screen Shot 2015-08-07 at 11.52.08 amFor the time being let me share our analytics from Twitter. I feel that we should level set for anyone reading this along the lines of investment prospectus fine print, ‘previous performance is not indicative of future earnings’.

We planned for every eventuality (save for a serious lack of sleep and dropping my laptop shattering the screen on Wednesday night) and we executed nearly flawlessly. At the end of our week we had delivered a combined 3577 tweets resulting in 27,137, 344 impressions. 1321 (36.95%) of our tweets included hyperlinks, but interestingly enough the tweets with the most engagement were those which provided a convergence of old school marketing and social media. Our pic#wishyouwerehere postcard effort for the person who created the most amplification for #IstraKT team each day was a huge success – clearly there is something rather charming and nostalgic about getting a physical postcard from a faraway place which beats an Instagram hands down.

pic (1)A six-second Vine video of our liaison Goran earned over 800 views before the contest ended (and resulted in two proposals of marriage for him, he’s already happily married but was flattered) and it currently has realised more than 1620 loops.  (“Comments included “Is he single?,” “I like!!!.” and “Yummers!”)

The video from our visit to the Gustolato “Dream Lab” most clicked through for their website. We created a #loveletter video which served to wrap up our efforts in a very pretty package (even if you have never visited Istra you should cry it’s so beautiful!).

In the end, the estimated value we created for ITB is something north of $500,000.00.  Yes, we did it for the experience, for the bragging rights, to showcase what (agency) Commarglo and (tool) Outbox Pro can do, for a chance to win the €10,000, but mostly, now, we recognise that we really did all of this because we have fallen under the spell of Istra. We would like, very much, for you to take our experience and visit soon. 

If you enjoy my blog please do share the blog with your friends on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter – I am @TeresaFritschiTo order my book, please click on the cover art of my book below, thank you! 

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How do you #ShareIstria? You bring #Croatia to the #LILshow!

Regardless of our digital age or something far older, connections matter. The networks which beget those connections can foster REALLY-COOL-STUFF-HAPPENING!

I have been asked, a LOT, if I am Croatian, or if I have any Croatian blood. I have been asked why I care so much, why I love Croatia, why I would give up my American life to try and make a difference for her? I have been toldLiburnia “you don’t realise how Mediterranean you are”. It has been suggested that I ‘look’ like the pre-Illyrians race of the Liburnian people. The Poles are culturally and ethnically close to Croats – cousins, if you like. Although seven generations removed from ‘the old countries’ I am half Polish, with my typically American mash-up of French, English, Irish, Scots and German making up the balance of my heritage. None of this explains the deep grounding I feel for the Croatian people, the land itself, and of course the Adriatic, but it is resonant and to honour that resonance I must ‘do’.

We are, (speaking of myself in the 3rd person like I am royalty and certain friends will laugh so hard at this that they will spew their ice cold beverages at their computer screens!), while still ‘sort of’ sitting on the social media roman_painting_1marketing sidelines), very close to bringing a seemingly random online ‘content’ introduction into a real life connection, the net result producing a considerable marketing opportunity.

2013 October, OKCupid, a man shares a YouTube video with me.  I was captivated, I wasn’t the only one. The video went viral. Savvy use of social networks result in Sir Elton John offering his ‘patronage’ and the global fame and success that accompanies such. Females of all ages and gay men alike swoon. Straight men ‘get into it’ because they cover ACDC – brilliantly. In the midst of all of this I share ‘my’ discovery with my best girlfriend while drinking fantastically cold Martini’s and she suggests we make the ultimate road trip to fly to Istanbul to see their concert. (As sobriety is regained we quickly experienced a ‘level set’ having taken stock of the price of nearly last minute airline tickets.)

Fast forward, May 2015. My friend Ken and I are now contestants in @VisitIstra’s #ShareIstria contest as team #IstraKT. But we are more than that, we are also marketing people. Ken is particularly amazing at leveraging all that social media has to offer, while my niche is how a little research will generally net the strategic ‘sweet spot’ for just about anything, we both execute nearly flawlessly. We share a firm conviction of the ethos of #GiveMoreThanYouTake.

“Hey Ken, GUESS WHAT?!” (I can hear him moan on the other end of the phone before I even tell him “what”.) But, but, BUT – this would be GREAT! Logistics impossibilities and synergies aside Ken, just BELIEVE it will happen, he doubts, I never falter.

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Stjepan Hauser (left) and Luka Šulić (right) are 2Cellos

Rovinj-Croatia Dragan Todorović

Rovinj, Istra, Croatia sunset. Photo credit: Dragan Todorović

A faint percentage of you reading this will ‘know’ long before you have read this sentence that I have been writing of 2Cellos. For the rest of you, the weekly listeners of Carol McManus’ LinkedIn Lady Show that my friend Ken Herron co-hosts, you are about to learn how two classically trained musicians have turned their cellos into a generations-defying crossover sensation and it all started with a YouTube video (sort of). 2Cellos will be making an appearance on the 22 July #LILShow in support of their playing Rovinj Jazz Festival organised and hosted by Maistra, along with Maistra representatives and both will be talking about their use of social media to build their brands. OH. BUT. WAIT. THERE. IS. MORE. Something which will make everyone with a breathe of life in their bodies want to know where Rovinj is but also do everything humanly possible to be there the night of 24 July. I will, (kicking dirt figuratively), leave that to Ken and Carol.

If you are not yet familiar with Luka and Stjepan allow me the privilege of sharing a few video selections as an introduction – humour you can understand even without a command of language, energy that comes playing from an iconic cultural song Mesečina, their ACDC cover of Back in Black and my personal hymn Benedictus (which has repeatedly appeared on my journey of coming ‘home’ to Croatia with each step I have taken).

Networks offer opportunity, while building connections into relationships can be powerful catalysts for change. The Balkans still have a lot of healing to realise. There is still pain from the ex-Yugoslav War. There is still epic corruption that is generated from a society denied so much for so long that makes people do desperate things at the expense of the whole of society. But Croatia has an unparalleled beauty both physically and within the souls of her people, something so ancient and pure that your breath is taken from you at each example of it  – reverence, awe, being humbled all at once. Perhaps in offering this it is enough explanation at a visceral level of “why Croatia” until you experience her yourself.

Please follow our adventures on Twitter @Kenherron @TeresaFritschi @Commarglo (our new consulting agency) and especially with the hashtag #IstraKT (which we hope you will RT and share with reckless abandon). #WishYouWereHere

If you enjoy my blog please consider ‘buying me a cup of tea’ in your currency via PayPal to livelikeadog@gmail.com and then, please do share the blog with your friends on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter – I am @TeresaFritschiTo order my book, please click on the cover art of my book below, thank you! 

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Sitting on the #socialmediamarketing sidelines

Every day I witness epic #fails related to the use of social media to market brands, failures to achieve increased sales, to shift perception, to communicate effectively and it is so very frustrating.

sidelines 2Right now I am sitting on the social media marketing sidelines, and to a larger extent the whole strategic planning for the brands involved. Efforts that, oh gosh I wish I was driving – and not being in the driver’s seat is giving me the same level of nausea I get whenever I am a passenger. And, mind you, this is not about my ego and or desiring to stand in the spotlight because every MarComm professional knows that our place is in the background making things happen. But still.

socrates-knowing-that-you-know-nothingOn more than one occasion in every professional communications person’s lifetime can be heard a refrain similar to ‘I’m sorry. “You don’t know what you don’t know.” I should have listened to you.’ Ultimately ‘decision makers’ who always seem to think they know best because, well, they are in charge, who undermine the expressed goals of their business strategies based solely upon ego rather than knowledge and there’s absolutely nothing to be done about it. Being right is no consolation. It doesn’t matter what the vertical is. It doesn’t matter who didn’t listen and whose advice was ignored. When the net result realises something far less than what could have been strategically planned for, and was tactically possible to deploy, the underlying reason for the shortfall is either about ego and/or competency.

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Photo credit: standard.co.uk

A short while ago London witnessed the most perfect deployment of advance marketing in my recent memory – and yes, it went viral. Funny how washboard abs on a man wearing leather briefs and gladiator sandals will attract attention, get people talking, ENGAGE with the brand. And that is the point of marketing, isn’t it?

Through a friend I heard recently that his point of contact (a marketing person) bemoaned the fact that the owner of her company held disdain for the expenditures associated with marketing and communications, he just couldn’t find value in these activities. As I listened I thought the same thing I have for 30 years, this isn’t ‘if you build it, he will come’. Today (as ever) word of mouth fostered by strategic communications is what drives revenue. Sometimes it’s subtle, sometimes it is an activity so in-your-face that people gasp out-loud, and often times it is (rather mundane) variations on thoughtfully developed core messaging – but it is always about positioning, brand alignment, and amplification which garners engagement. Simple? Right? Ah, not so much so. Because the other critical piece of this is while a marketing and communications professional knows that they are not an engineer or a doctor for some reason other professionals all think they can “do” our jobs as well as we do.

On another note my business partner Ken Herron and I are the #IstraKT team competing in the #ShareIstria campaign being run by the Istrian Tourist Board for a €10,000 prize (and yes, bragging rights). The only analytics that actually count for us (or any of the teams) are those generated during our respective week of the contest (in our case this is the last week of the campaign starting in Rovinj, Croatia 25 – 31 July). Of course we’d be delighted for you to follow our adventures under the hashtag #IstraKT (on Twitter, Instagram, G+, Facebook, Periscope and our blogs) on Twitter we are @kenherron @teresafritschi and our new business is @commarglo. We haven’t begun to deploy the various components of our plan. For now our efforts are only pre-marketing ones. That is not so say we haven’t netted results – we have, impressive results by anyone’s standards.

The following represents ONLY engagements realised to date (not actual Tweets, not delivery to accounts, not impressions, not blog posts read, Pinterest shared, no Facebook Shares or Likes – well you get the idea) from 24 April 2015, when we entered to qualify as contestants in the ShareIstria contest, to 11AM on 11 July 2015 and were pulled from analytics.twitter.com for each of our accounts.

9815 @KenHerron
4015 @TeresaFritschi
435   @commarglo  (after years of discussing it we finally decided to make our business relationship ‘formal’ and legally incorporate on 29 June)

It should be noted I am not the metrics geek of our team, but we have earned FourteenThousandTwoHundredSixtyFive engagements under the #ShareIstria hashtag for our three accounts on Twitter in SeventyEightDays.

Remember this ‘us’ not fully deployed, this is us sitting on the social media marketing sidelines, queued and waiting for our turn to engage. Let’s assume that the conversion rate of these ka-chingengagements is 2% – meaning that eventually 285.3 people (not factoring in traveling companions) will actually visit Istria, Croatia as a result of our pre-marketing efforts. There, according to Lonely Planet, they will spend on average €316.82 per day (sorry, our messages aren’t targeting the backpacker market segment) and let’s “just” consider our time as the average visit – 7 days – thus adding (at minimum) over €633,000.00 to Istria’s tourism revenues. I feel really good about that.

In the meantime pull your own numbers. Not close to these? Challenge your social media agency or internal team to do better for you and your business and 90 days to up their results. Not happy after that? You know how to find us – @commarglo.

If you enjoy my blog please consider ‘buying me a cup of tea’ in your currency via PayPal to livelikeadog@gmail.com and then, please do share the blog with your friends on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter – I am @TeresaFritschiTo order my book, please click on the cover art of my book below, thank you! 

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Greenwashing does not make your company a pillar of #CSR or sustainability! – Guest Blog for Ethical Value

ev logo Guest post for Ethical Value, co-published simultaneously

The Coca-Cola Co. ‏@CocaColaCo  “We believe investing in women is the absolute key to economic growth.” Charlotte Oades @USCCFBiz4Good #5by20. #Inspire2Act #IWD2014

cry TweetShortly thereafter came this retweet ‘love’ from a very smart man that I respect (who will remain nameless):

RT @CocaColaCo Fm producers #suppliers #distributors #retailers & recyclers we aim to empower 5M women http://CokeURL.com/l2me8  #Inspire2Act

I saw these Tweets and my stomach convulsed.  Not that empowering women is a bad thing, no, THAT IS A VERY GOOD THING, but, as Collective Evolution (and many other sources) so aptly points out:

“Coke uses “public relations propaganda” to convince consumers and entire nations that it is an “environmental company” when really it is linked to pollution, water shortages, and disease.”

‘The smart man’ I mention, in RTing this particular Tweet, seems to have bought into the green-washing of Coca-Cola courtesy of their marketing team (as do hundreds of millions of people on a global basis), and this not only stuns me because it is so contrary to “his brand” but also makes me sad and angry.  But it is this sentence, from Coca-Cola’s own website, that pushed me over the edge:

“As we move toward our 2020 Vision of doubling our business by 2020, enabling the economic empowerment of women will undoubtedly be an important contributor to our success.”

Let’s be clear, Coca-Cola’s #5X20 initiative isn’t REALLY, altruistically, about lifting women out of poverty it’s about market share, doubling their business, and in doing so, contributing to the health decline of 80% of the worlds’ populations whose average household income is less than $10 (USD) a day! Think about that for a second when the vending machine at your office is likely asking $2 for a single 20 ounce bottle of Coke! So I Tweeted:

#CSR? @CocaColaCo’s #5X20 is actually #causerelatedmarketing NOT #empowerment for #women! #LiesToldOnTwitter

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Artwork by Miranda Coss

Just so we are clear this isn’t a prejudice based in a Coke versus Pepsi (or any of their respective other beverage brands) preference; I am not and have never been a big cola drinker, while I do enjoy the occasional Dr. Brown’s, Izze or Orangina I would be willing to bet that my consumption of these amounts to less than a total of ten 16 ounce servings in any given YEAR. I think you should read this about what drinking Coke and Pepsi actually do to the body, and I can only hope you start to view your habit with a little more caution toward your health (or that of your kids and grandkids.

But I digress; this post is not primarily concerned with our beverage choices but the use of public relations to obfuscate the reality of Coca-Cola (and other multinational corporations) when it comes to legitimate social responsibility practices.  By leveraging social media, optimization of search engine results with technical acumen, strategic thought  and proactive and diligent management Coca-Cola is, to a large degree, successfully controlling its message.  To underscore my point, I just did a Imagesearch on Google “Coca-Cola environmental impact” of the 3.3 million results, (Google is the most popular SE in terms of use – see graph) on the first page of results ‘above the page break’ Coca-Cola has ensured their placement in three of the top five results – Wikipedia comes in at the #2 spot and at #5 is KillerCoke.org. (According to MarketShareHitsLink.com, October 2010, 75% of users never scroll past the first page of search results, which is why having a strategic communications plan that includes Web 2.0 for brand enrichment is so critical in our hyper-connected world.)

So what results are you, the consumer or a journalist doing research, going to get when a desire suddenly seizes you to learn more? Unless you are willing to dig deep – you would never discover that despite their “plant based” bottle PR campaigns that the resulting Imagebottles which both Pepsi and Coke are hyping as being eco-friendly are STILL chemically the same, absolutely identical to the polyethylene terepthalate, or PET, and high-density polyethylene, or HDPE, that regular plastic bottles are made of: these carry the same negative human health and environmental impacts as plastic made from fossil fuels. And yet the messaging makes those of you drinking the 14 (yes, fourteen different) billion (USD) brands from Pepsi   or the 108 (yes, ONE HUNDRED AND EIGHT!) beverage brands from Coca-Cola with all those plastic bottles going into the environment, all those trillions of empty calories being consumed, all the resources used and subsequent negative impact on the planet – in particular water use feel a bit righteous in your consumer choice – my darlings you have absolutely no reason to!

“Drinking” water in Ghana

I am not anti-Capitalism, but I have never, ethically, been able to use my skills and passion to promote an employer or a client whose business I did not fully respect (ie, prostitute myself for a paycheck).  I recently had a conversation with the CEO and founder of a technology firm whose platform is designed to help (genuinely) lift the bottom 3 billion of humankind out of poverty – the same number who also do not have access to clean drinking water or basic sanitation, the identical target market for doubling Coca-Cola’s business by 2020 for whom it will actually be cheaper to drink a cola beverage than to drink clean water! It’s fine to make money, it’s fine to make money in emerging markets, it’s a noble and wonderful thing to give a hand-up (rather than a hand-out), but in my mind’s eye it’s NOT FINE to sugar-coat actual objectives to make them more palatable to your consuming public and distort reality.  If Coca-Cola and Pepsi and the rest of their beverage industry brethren REALLY WANT to help empower women then I suggest taking 8% of their annual profits and fund opportunities for education previously unknown to all but a few of the bottom 3 billion of our neighbours or the various efforts to provide clean water around the world, their philanthropic and CSR departments can one stop shop for worthy projects at Charity Water, Water or in this blog post from Huffington .

Corporate Social Responsibility and the companion sustainability protocols are not ’cause related marketing’ (which is what Coca-Cola’s #5X20 actually is), what CSR ‘should be’ truly is the heart and soul, conscience and character of doing the right thing within a corporate environment.

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