Archive for July, 2009

HSBC have been churning out some pretty good guerrilla marketing as of late. As part of their “Different Values” campaign, the bank’s latest tactic gave New Yorkers a platform from which to share their ideas on a wide range of subjects. Quite literally, HSBC set up a soapbox in Madison Square Park and invited participants to give their two cents on everything ranging from nuclear power to fast food. The three most popular topics proved to be marriage, babies and jobs. As I understand, it is all part of a smaller digital campaign set to launch this summer. The intent behind “Different Values” is to show that, while global and monolithic in size, the bank recognizes individuals’ unique perspectives on life. (See our post “HSBC brand recognizes people’s differing values” at The Story for another example). The experiential soapbox tactic is an effort to showcase these varying perspectives.

As the bank puts it, “Through our new campaign, HSBC challenges people to address their own values and discover what drives and motivates them in their daily lives, and through this journey it is our belief that what we learn from one customer will help us to better serve another.”

It’s too soon to say whether the soapbox portion of the overall campaign will go viral, but the bank is definitely taking a step in the right direction by using interactive marketing. Since HSBC is global, I hope they repeat this in different cities around the world to emphasize that they truly are “the world’s local bank”.



Read Full Post »


Maybe, if you aren’t prepared for it. As was the case last night with Dave Chappelle’s “secret” free midnight show at Pioneer Square in Portland, OR… which actually wasn’t very secret, seeing as it was plastered all over local news sites and dominated Twitter/Facebook for the entire day.

About five thousand people showed up, due 100% to word of mouth, for a show that hadn’t even been confirmed. We all stood around until 1:00 AM wondering if Portland had just been massively punk’d or if Dave Chappelle was really going to appear. Eventually he did, but was ill-prepared for the crowd that had gathered and only carried a tiny amp that no one could hear. Event organizers (whoever they were other than Dave) had grossly underestimated the compounding nature of WOM and the power of social media. They had obviously neglected to track what was being said and where it was being posted, or they definitely would have been more prepared. To anyone following the rumor mill that day, it was clear from the amount of talk and the popular news sites covering it, that the turnout was going to be significant. Almost everyone I know in PDX went. Friends in Europe found out about it at the same time I did.

I guess the main lesson to be learned is the importance of tracking what and how much is being said about you. (There are companies that specialize in this). Otherwise you might come up slightly unprepared to deal with certain situations.

(Despite the lousy sound system, it was a lot of fun! And it made Portland very happy.)

Read Full Post »

One critical component of word of mouth marketing is responding to consumer comments and complaints. It’s all about listening to what people have to say and fostering two-way dialogue for solving problems, answering questions, recognizing suggestions and thanking compliments. United Airlines has thoroughly failed at this, and now they are going to feel the backlash.

Musician Dave Carroll from the band Sons of Maxwell claims that over a year ago, United severely damaged his $3,500 Taylor guitar while the band was on tour. Apparently the airline doesn’t even deny the incident, and have just been shifting blame around from person to person for the last 9 months. Fed up with what was turning into a futile effort to receive compensation, Dave decided on a different tactic:

“…At that moment it occurred to me that I had been fighting a losing battle all this time and that fighting over this at all was a waste of time. The system is designed to frustrate affected customers into giving up their claims and United is very good at it. However I realized then that as a songwriter and traveling musician I wasn’t without options. In my final reply to Ms. Irlweg I told her that I would be writing three songs about United Airlines and my experience in the whole matter. I would then make videos for these songs and offer them for free download online, inviting viewers to vote on their favourite United song. My goal: to get one million hits in one year…”

Thanks to blogs picking up on Dave’s idea, the first video has received over a million hits in three days.

Lesson here? Simply doing nothing can backfire and generate significant negative word of mouth. As for Dave’s plight, well I am happy to help promote his cause just to teach United a lesson.

Afterthought: In addition to this being bad word of mouth for United, its also really fantastic word of mouth for the band. Two birds with one stone!


Read Full Post »


Too bad they had to learn the hard way. The Los Angeles Times reports that BofA is under fire from nine ex-employees who accuse the bank of pushing them to sign up immigrant clients to as many financial products as possible – many of which carry high interest and fees. Apparently, BofA instructed employees with Latino heritage and Spanish language skills to aggressively sell products to new immigrants in places like embassies, neighborhood stores, clinics, child welfare centers, a center for single mothers and and even a religious Mother’s Day celebration.

Bank of America disputes the allegations and claims that they are due to a conflict of interests with the Service Employees International Union, which is backing a BofA employee unionization effort that the bank obviously would oppose.

If however, the allegations are true, then this is a prime example of dishonest marketing. Asking an employee to visit a welfare center, use their ethnic or cultural background to establish trust, and then sell a product that they know is risky for their clients is unethical. If they pretended not to be associated with BofA, then it even counts as stealth marketing or shilling. These are tactics that we constantly speak out against in word of mouth marketing, because they inevitably backfire and generate overwhelming negative publicity. They also undermine what the word of mouth movement is all about and increase consumer distrust in reviews and recommendations.

Bank of America – suckering someone into an account with hidden fees might generate you some additional revenue in the short term, but it’s not going to create a loyal or lasting customer relationship. In the end, you’ll lose more than you gain.


Read Full Post »