Wednesday, 25 August 2010

Social media to drive product recalls

A new survey from shows that one in five people have spiked their own food with something to avoid paying for it. It does seem remarkably high and pretty appalling given the lengths brand owners go to to develop the highest quality products whilst adhering to stringent and complex manufacturing processes.

Occasionally however things do go wrong and consumers have a genuine cause for complaint when they find something in a product that shouldn’t be there. If the problem affects a batch then a decision is taken in consultation with the Food Standards Agency (FSA) for the product to be either 'withdrawn' (taken off the shelves) or 'recalled' (when customers are asked to return the product). In the last four weeks there has been a recall of a well known champagne brand due to an allergy alert, a withdrawal of a brand of Fizzy Jelly Mix and Fizzy Cola Bottles sweets due to a concern about the metal tin base and a recall of a supermarket’s own label brand of milk chocolate due to the presence of nuts. Brand owners are required to place newspaper advertising to communicate recalls to consumers, but when was the last time you remember seeing or reading such a notification? The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) already recognises this approach needs to be reviewed down-under. Their recent report recommends suppliers develop recall communication plans that target consumers based on demographics and communication preferences, including making greater use of social media and online forms of communication such as websites and blogs to advertise product recalls. If implemented in Australia the impact will surely be felt across the globe and other markets are certain to follow.

Most big food and drink brands are already embracing social media as part of their ongoing proactive communications but they also need to use it as an essential part of crisis communications too. Plum Organics used Facebook and Twitter extremely effectively to reassure consumers during its voluntary and precautionary recall of Apple & Carrot Baby Food. At Cirkle we work with our clients to implement tailored communications strategies all year round, not just in the event of a recall, and the role of social media within those strategies is never underestimated or overlooked.

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Thursday, 19 August 2010

Do you know your Jubilee from your Elsanta?

Nothing says summer like a big, juicy, vibrant red, strawberry. There is nothing like that unique taste, that aroma, that texture…hmmm

But isn’t it disappointing when you get a dud?

Cirkle has spent the last week talking to Jubilee Strawberries and to our surprise, even us foodies, who are arguably well versed in fresh produce with award winning campaigns for Jersey Royal Potatoes, Pink Lady Apples and British Blackcurrants under our belts, were in the dark when it came to picking a perfect punnet – surely just looking out for ‘British’ is enough when it comes to a strawberry?

Did you know there are more than 20 varieties of British strawberries? It seems mind boggling that there could be that much of a difference from one crop to the next – but think about it… does it feel mind boggling to compare a Granny Smith apple to a Pink Lady? Or a King Edward Potato to a Jersey Royal? No, because they are completely different in taste and we know what we are getting when we buy them. We have already been educated about the differences and we understand them.

Jubilee Strawberries were voted the best strawberry when polled in blind taste tests and even the retailers recognise their exceptional quality – they are what you will be getting when you buy Sainsbury’s Taste The Difference, Tesco Finest, Morrison’s Best, Asda Extra Special and M&S Dine In.

Yet despite this, 80% of strawberry buyers don’t look at what they are buying – even though consumer trends are showing that us shoppers want to shop smarter not cheaper, we want to enjoy the products we buy, not waste £1.99 on a cut price punnet of unripe, tasteless, bullets that we will probably throw away before finishing.

So get strawberry savvy people!! There are still lots of strawberry eating occasions left before the British season ends in October (just ignore the rain!).

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Thursday, 12 August 2010

Are you hiding your opinions behind your computer screen?

With the rise in popularity and range of social media platforms available, it seems that everyone I know is part of this phenomenon. Whether it be Twitter, Facebook or blogging, they are all at it.

A recent survey by revealed that two million of British workers spend over an hour a day surfing social me
dia sites. We are a nation obsessed with Tweets and Facebook status updates! I’ve lost count of the times I’ve read Facebook status updates on subjects such as the state of public transport or someone’s rude behaviour, let alone those status’ with hidden messages obviously aimed at a certain person. I wonder if these people would have expressed their opinions if they had to say it in person rather than type it…. has social media become the modern day Speaker’s Corner, giving you the chance to say something you wouldn’t normally say?

The internet is the perfect platform to express those more controversial opinions too – take the Facebook group entitled ‘R.I.P. Raoul Moat You Legend!’ This group made the national news, after attracting more than 35,000 contributions. The page was removed after it came under fire from Prime Minister David Cameron, and just hours later another one was created.

It just goes to show that you will always find someone of the same or similar opinion as you online, no matter how controversial or strange it may be... even if it’s just a Facebook group, a ‘like’ of your Facebook status or a Retweet.

What happened to a good, old fashioned rant or telling people exactly how you feel in person? Are you guilty of bottling up your thoughts and expressing them through your Twitter or Facebook page rather than saying them out loud?

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Thursday, 5 August 2010

A little less action, a little more conversation please

There is no doubt that technology is making it easier for brands to connect with consumers. Online platforms and more specifically social media have created an opportunity for brands to engage with consumers by building meaningful dialogue in a space that invites conversation, enables peer-to-peer interaction and ultimately drives word of mouth through brand advocacy. But are brands connecting with the tools that facilitate this conversation rather than engaging with the communities they create?

As individuals we would never turn up at a party uninvited and shout about ourselves to whoever listens. If we did we’d probably be shown the door before anyone even considered befriending us. In order to successfully engage with people online brands need to adhere to the same rules of engagement an individual would in this situation – establish a profile, invite conversation, gain respect and engage in the same way we would human-to-human. Brands need to join the community without invading it.

A recent Altimeter Report that investigated how 34 brands used Facebook marketing found that nearly half the brands they reviewed did not fully leverage social media features to harness brand advocacy and activate word of mouth. As a result, they have identified ‘8 Success Criteria for Facebook Page Marketing:
1. Set community expectations

2. Provide cohesive branding

3. Be up to date

4. Live authenticity

5. Participate in dialogue

6. Enable peer-to-peer interactions

7. Foster advocacy

8. Solicit a call to action

It’s fair to say that in many ways these are all attributes one would expect to find in any mutually beneficially relationship between two individuals on Facebook who trust and value each others opinion. Albeit we would not define them in exactly the same way i.e. ‘set community expectation’ is about being honest and open about what one can expect from a relationship, while ‘foster advocacy’ would be more along the lines of defending a friend’s reputation or speaking highly of their achievements.

Too often brands use online tools, like Facebook, simply for the sake of being there or as a tactic rather than considering them as just one element of online strategy that seeks to establish meaningful, long term relationships with relevant groups and interested individuals. If they truly want to engage with consumers and establish a meaningful, long term relationship that creates genuine brand advocates they need to be a part of the communities they seek to harness and add value to their discussions.

In short, social skills are essential if brands want to connect with consumers rather than simply being present on platforms they are using.

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