Unlike Advertising, Social Media Can't Save A Bad Brand, Product Or Service

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Jumping into Social Media is one of the smartest things a brand should do. It could also be one of the worst moves if the brand is not prepared.

All too often, I’ve heard gripes like, "we’re on Facebook, but nothing is happening," or "we’re on Twitter and no one is following us." You can swap out whatever Social Media channel I’ve mentioned and replace it with lines like, "nobody is watching our videos," "nobody is downloading our Podcast," and "no one is leaving any comments on our Blog."

Once again, brands have to be interesting, relevant and consistent to build community and conversation.

It’s not rocket surgery (as my friend, Jason Falls over at Social Media Explorer always says), but it’s certainly not easy. Beyond the hard work, long hours and commitment to providing true and honest value (above pushing for a sale or broadcasting nonsense into the channels and platforms), most brands looking to enter the Social Media fray have a lot more to think about than whether or not anyone will follow, engage and connect to them once they get started. Most brands need to think twice about Social Media because their products and services aren’t all that good to begin with.

Unlike advertising, Social Media can’t save a bad product or service.

Prior to thinking about Social Media, brands would be wise to review Don Tapscott‘s excellent book, Wikinomics. In particular, the section where Tapscott talks about "being buff."  The brands that do well in Social Media are the brands that look good naked. Because, as Tapscott says, if you’re going to be naked online (which all brands are), you better be buff, in shape and ready for it… and he’s right.

Maybe Social Media is the last thing you should be doing if…

  • The majority of people have nothing nice to say about your brand.
  • Your customer service center is over-worked with complaints and issues.
  • Your current brand strategy revolves around trying to make your products sound better than they are.
  • You don’t have the time, passion and/or commitment to do Social Media with transparency, credibility and authenticity.
  • You really don’t care about customers and only care about selling.
  • Your heart isn’t into it.
  • You feel like you don’t have the time to do it.

Social Media won’t save a bad brand. It will only shine a brighter light on the warts and flaws.

(additional thought: check out Joseph Jaffe‘s latest book, Flip The Funnel, for some great insights on how customer service and social media co-mingle).


  1. All over this post. A couple more thoughts and nuances.
    Don’t get into social media if :
    * you don’t have a long-term plan to stick with it
    * you don’t have a crisis management protocol in place to handle immediate SM issues
    * if you are not going to allow your employees to participate with a certain degree of freedom (providing training is a healthy idea) — i.e. you need the right ‘culture’ in the organisation.
    * if you are not prepared to experience failure
    * if you are afraid to “let go” of total control…

  2. The headline is misleading – you *honestly* think advertising can save bad brands/products/services? Maybe if you’re an airline – anything else, how does that possibly work out?

  3. I completely agree although I’d add that any media can’t save a bad product or service (or at the least, relying on media to do that is a losing proposition).
    A great brand requires a great product or service. Relying on your marketing to make a great brand out of a mediocre product is increasingly becoming less feasible. It’s an exercise in putting lipstick on a pig.
    Consumers are just too well informed and connected to other consumers to get by with this outdated approach.
    I wrote about this recently in an article for MarketingProfs: http://tiny.cc/r91ri

  4. I agree with the core message of this blog post however suggesting Advertising can save a bad brand? A bad brand is just that… a bad brand. Just ask Pets.com if advertising can save a bad brand or in their case, a bad business model.
    The only savior for a bad brand is change. It takes the re-alignment of the vision, behavior and image all working in harmony to build a successful brand.

  5. Seth Godin wrote about it in his book Meatball Sundae:Is Your Marketing Out of Sync?
    Traditional companies won’t make it in the social media world not unless they sort of start from scratch; build a whole new business model soley for the purpose of getting in on the social media bandwagon.

  6. I think this might be the best explanation why you should or shouldn’t be in Social Media. As far as Advertising being able to save a brand? I guess ads would be the way to attract people who don’t already know your crappy product and wouldn’t google the name to check it out. Lots of them out there.
    On a completely different topic. Have you ever thought about selling Six Pixel t-shirts?

  7. social media, on the other hand, gives a bad product or service the death that it deserves. This lack of ethics in traditional media advertising is part of what’s killing it.

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