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Wednesday
Sep282011

Promoting your Social Cred with Caution

We are in an age where most corporations are looking for ways to show their social credentials as a way of engaging and building good-will with their (potential) client base. While this can be quite a powerful marketing tool it must be dealt with some caution.

Last week on Sunrise we discussed the recent uproar in some sections of the media in Australia about a Wiggles Youtube video relating back to the Sep 11 terrorist attacks in the US.

The video, part of their 20th birthday celebrations, documents The Wiggles achievements in lifting the spirits of the American population in the aftermath of September 11. It features footage from the time and personal testimony from American families.

The Wiggles’ motive for creating the video is being questioned with many claiming it is a “shameless self-promotion technique”. Social networking sites are being flooded with criticism from those who are unimpressed with the video, including media and advertising websites.

Despite this, The Wiggles state that they are not seeking anything from the video but rather they simply want to “touch those that have touched them” with their stories in the aftermath. Check out the video below and make up your own mind.



If you can’t see the video - click here - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5UrRnT6_i_E

Did they go to far?

Is the video in poor taste or is it just misunderstood?
I do not believe it was intended to self-promote and the criticism is unwarranted. There is no question that The Wiggles are dedicated to what they do and that they love performing, entertaining and educating children. At this point in their business life it is clearly not about the money. The release of this video is particularly interesting because it is a first-of-a-kind for The Wiggles. In the twenty years they have been entertaining us, they have not used promotional techniques such as this - and they do a lot of good that should be celebrated. Also, The Wiggles are not using the video to come out and say ‘look how good we are’ or advertise themselves in that way, rather they are conveying the message that this was a very tragic event and they’re happy that their job and their love for what they do has helped people.

The real issue here is the various markets that the Wiggles play in. The American culture is very patriotic and forward, they generally feel free to be able to express themselves and the things they do. In comparison, the Australian culture does not encourage us to openly promote the good things we do, or the achievements we make. We tend to wait for others to do it for us. In the American market The Wiggles promoting their own efforts in this video is not seen as poor taste. This is demonstrated in the countless responses from Americans on The Wiggles Facebook page thanking them, wishing them well and praising their efforts.

Another point we need to consider is The Wiggles choice to release the video on their official YouTube channel not through traditional mass media channels. This demonstrates that the intended audience was their own community of followers not the general public. It is the sensitive nature of the content which has brought it to the attention of other media channels.  

What can we learn?

The negative publicity that is resulting from this video highlights the dangers associated with public relations and aligning yourself with a sensitive event such as September 11.  It is important for us to not simply watch The Wiggles’ 9/11 video and forget the very important lessons we can learn from their example.

Below I have listed a number of tips we need to take into consideration when communicating and promoting your brand to your audience.

1. Decide on your specific target market. What cultural nuances do they adhere to? How will your message be received? It is important to make sure that we understand exactly who your specific target audience is and how they think. It is also important to remember that others outside of your target market will see your message - how will they perceive you?

2. Examine carefully your motives. We need to consider what the reasons are behind your communication - is it to promote goodwill, society’s interests and a good cause? If yes, then great! However, if your motives are seen to deliberately use a good cause to push your own cause ( gain more sales, profits) then this is fraught with danger..  Besides, if your motives are ‘good’ then profits and sales should follow i.e. there is shared value for your brand and society.  

3. Get it right! When public relations and promotional campaigns are executed poorly there can be long-term devastating consequences for our brand. In the case of The Wiggles their strong brand image and household name will protect their reputation, however for most brands without that goodwill in the bank this would not be the case.

Check out the full Sunrise segment below for more thoughts on the topic. The transcript is below.

If you can’t see the video - click here - http://youtu.be/lhUxJBAkFVI

 

Melissa Doyle: Well, The Wiggles have launched an unusual new promotional videos showing how they came to the rescue of September 11 victims. It features accounts from families who say the children's entertainers helped them through the hard times.

Speaker 2: I had a son, 10 and a half months at this time, that I had to protect him from these images, and the only way that I could think of doing that in those days was to have The Wiggles on. And they were on in my house 24/7.

Matthew White: Yeah, The Wiggles say they were touched by the stories they heard in the aftermath of the terror attacks, but some have now criticized the video for being inappropriate. So, with more on this, we're joined by show biz commentator, Peter Ford, in Melbourne, and joining us in the studio, advertising expert, Matthew Bywater. Good morning to both of you. Let's start with you, Pete. Do you think this video is in bad taste?

Peter Ford: Not bad taste. I think it's a questionable move on their part. Let's get this really clear. We love The Wiggles. You've had them in there a hundred times. I've sat next next to Anthony on planes a few times. They are really dedicated to what they do. They're great guys. They're not doing it for the money at this stage of their lives. They do it because they love it.

But I think this move is a really interesting one. We here in Australia probably perceive it a bit differently to what people in the States will do. We tend to not like people talking about the good things they do and they achieve, and The Wiggles, I can promise you, do a lot of things that you never actually hear about. Very different side to you, Mel. When you go overseas to a third world country, they want you to come back and talk about it and you become a conduit for information. But in this case, I think having The Wiggles sit down and talking about themselves, and the great things they didn't achieve whilst, I'm sure every word of it's true, I don't know that it really rubs well.

Melissa Doyle: Yeah. Matthew, what's your view? Why would they do this? And do you think that's the key, that the difference between Australian audiences and American audiences?

Matthew Bywater: Yeah, there is a huge difference. There's a huge cultural difference between the two countries. The Americans tend to be very patriotic and they like to also tout their wares, if you like. They like to strut their stuff, and that looks like it's a bad thing, and we tend to be the opposite. We tend to want to be very quiet and keep it to ourselves, and let other people do the talking. So you've got that cultural difference.

But I have to say, I don't think The Wiggles come out and beat their chest about this. I don't think they come out and said, "Hey, look at us. We're so wonderful and great." They just post this on their YouTube channel, and then the rest is just run through the media. They just go along and said, "Hey, this is a very tragic event. We're happy in what we do in not just our jobs, but in the love of what we do for a job, can actually help people, and let's just spread that."

Matthew White: Yeah, they do help an enormous amount of people. And Peter, like you said, this stage of their career, they're not really thinking about doing things for the money, or do you think for the PR as well. Would they be worried about any backlash?

Peter Ford: Well, they still are running a business. I mean, they have never put a foot wrong. In all the years they've been around, they have never done anything wrong. There's been no bad publicity really associated with them. And I don't think this is going to be any kind of speed hump for them, either. I just think, perhaps here in Australia, we view it differently. Most of us would think, "Oh, you didn't really need to shine the spotlight on yourself." I think, if I really wanted to be hysterically funny, I'd say this is just a hot potato.

Melissa Doyle: Aw, you know what? I wouldn't want to compare it to 9/11, and thank God I've never been through anything like that, but as a parent, I tell you, they've saved me many a time. So, we're all forever grateful. All right, an interesting chat. Peter, Matthew, thanks so much. Both of you have a good day.