reputation management

Courting Controversy

A few major brands have waded into some controversial waters lately, leveraging our current national discord in order to send what is hoped to be a positive message. The results have been all over the map. Here are three recent examples:

    1. Budweiser, Born the Hard Way”

Described as “the story of our founder’s ambitious journey to America in pursuit of his dream: to brew the King of Beers,” this cinematic Super Bowl commercial drew criticism from certain folks for a perceived pro-immigrant bias, especially given that it was released around the same time the president issued an executive order regarding immigration. The hashtag #boycottbudwiser (sic) started circulating before the commercial even aired.

However, as Mashable notes the boycott largely failed, in that “The boycotters … missed the larger historical context of the Budweiser ad.”

      1. Pepsi, “Live For Now”

      What can be said about this ad that hasn’t already been said? Pepsi and Jenner were raked over the coals by, well, everyone, including SNL:

      The biggest complaint was that ad was tone-deaf in how it co-opped imagery from Black Lives Matter and other earnest political movements. The thinking that beautiful people drinking sugary beverages will solve the world’s problems is also flawed. In any event, “Live For Now” didn’t live for long. Pepsi wisely yanked the ad a day after its release.

  1. 3. Heineken, “Worlds Apart”

OK, so, if we take the lessons learned from both Budweiser and Pepsi, the message seems to be: Stay away from topical material to avoid ridicule and boycotts. But then along comes Heineken with this ad that takes a huge risk and somehow manages to pull it off.

Writing for The A.V. Club,Gwen Ihnat notes that by using real people, as opposed to models and actors, Heineken “very simply and succinctly accomplishes what Jenner and all those hundreds of Pepsi street-activist extras could not.”

Heineken’s strategy isn’t exactly new, argues Sarah Rense in this piece by Esquire: “It uses the reliable trope of Real People seeing something and/or someone for the first time, and then having their minds changed, mixed with a healthy dose of social awareness.” Rense also notes that, in the wake of the Pepsi debacle, Heineken had a low bar to clear: “By itself, it’s just an ad meant to sell a thing. But compared to the Pepsi ad, it deserves a Cannes Lion. Makes you smile a bit, too.”

Tapping into a nation’s divisions to sell fizzy beverages isn’t necessarily groundbreaking. Coke may have done it first with “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing (In Perfect Harmony)” way back in 1971.

Horribly cheesy? Yes. A cynical attempt to use flower children to sell soda? Yeah, probably. Offensive? Well, I didn’t see anyone in riot gear, so not really. Actually, the jingle was so successful that it was reworked into a full length song and became a hit on the Billboard charts.

I’m going to end this by recalling an earlier BEC post from 2016 regarding ethics in marketing.

In that post, we outlined a few steps on how to be ethical in marketing: Do the research, Be objective, Be the good, and Get better. We can also cull one other lesson in marketing the Heineken ad: Take the time to get it right. This is doubly true if you’re using a societal issue to spread specific message.

How Do I Control What Comes Up In A Google Search?

I got an excellent question via email from a friend of mine. She went through a divorce and has recently started dating again. One of her dates found her divorce details via a Google search. While she is not trying to hide anything, she also understandably doesn’t want this to be the first thing that comes up about her online.

Now I used to work in the internet department of a newspaper and people would call and ask us to take out items from police reports, divorce listings, property transfers, etc. for many reasons. In all cases, the answer was ‘no’ since they were part of the public record. Even if you couldn’t find it on our particular website you could find it on the state of Maine website and other places like it. You can pretend to put out a fire by fighting it in one room of a house but really you’d have to eliminate it at the source (like the local courthouse) to truly make it go away.

If the information isn’t true, you can try contacting the website administrator, print some kind of retraction, or find out more about your rights and acceptable actions against online slander. I’m not going to pretend to be a lawyer here but know that there are steps you can take if someone is saying something online that can be defined as slander.

If the information is true, this will be a bit trickier. Sure you can still contact the website administrator but they legally don’t have to do anything about it.

What you can do is push that item to the second or third page of Google but adding some new information for Google to find about you. Think of it as adding positive things you can control to the online space. Here are some ideas:

Make LinkedIn and/or Facebook profile.
If someone Googles your name, what better thing to come up then your resume? You can create other social media profiles as well but these two are particularly effective since one page of results will show all ‘Nicole Ouellette’s on a SERP page and one page will show you. See Exhibit A:

When you looked up my name a few years ago, it was some HR person in Massachusetts. Guess who it is now?

When you looked up my name a few years ago, it was some HR person in Massachusetts. Guess who it is now?

Play nice with Google.
Google owns Google+, Blogger, Youtube, and lots of other websites. Most of these websites allow you to create free profiles. Play nice on Google-owned websites by creating profiles  since those are likely getting preferential treatment by that search engine. (sure there’s nothing offical that says this but come on, if it was you, wouldn’t you do it too?)

Guest post on some blogs.
When I look up my name, I see websites where I’ve either been interviewed or wrote an article for. If you are, say, in the medical field, offer to guest post on a related blog. Contact the blog owner and let them know you have an idea for a post. This site has a list of blogs open for guest posting:

So just a few easy ideas to make some good news appear higher on web searches. Remember, time heals all wounds, in life and online. Eventually bad news does fade away, even if you wouldn’t do anything and the latest of what’s going on with you will appear prominently. So get to doing the things in the life that you’re proud to have online. :^)