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The Rise of the Brand Bully?



IAA forum tackles the issue of brands and boundaries on social media

The Rise of the Brand Bully?


Brands should embrace social media but do so with contingency, caution, cohesion and continuity - that was the prevailing sentiment of a high-powered and provocative International Advertising Association Australian Chapter quarterly breakfast forum this morning at L’Aqua in Sydney’s Cockle Bay Wharf.
The panel of: Optus Head of Brand Nathan Rosenberg, M&C Saatchi Managing Director David Whittle, Australian Association of National
 Advertisers Acting CEO Alina Bain, McDonald’s Australia Director of Corporate Communications Ron Christianson and ZenithOptimedia Chief Innovation Officer Aaron Michie, dissected “The Rise of the Brand Bully” in a discussion moderated by AdNews Editor-in-Chief Paul McIntyre.
To an audience that comprised all sectors of the marketing communications industry, Ms Bain said “the term bullying was not the right word” in the context of social media backlashes against brands.
Unlike cyber bullying against individuals, brands should be able to take it, “the question is; what response mechanism do they have in place”.
Ms Bain spoke of the “new dynamic” following the recent Advertising Standards Board ruling that makes brands responsible for every comment posted on their social media platforms.
“Brands must accept there is a level of responsibility that has to attach to the social media space, a responsibility in line with community standards.”
Mr Rosenberg put forward four key principles that brands should use in their approach to social media:
1 Be interesting, if you are going to be boring you shouldn’t be in this space
2 Be Useful, know who you are and what people want from you
3 Realise you’re always in beta because the landscape is constantly evolving
4 Be mindful that the lines where brands should and shouldn’t have a point of view are blurring.
Mr Whittle said social media has been around as long as humans have been able to write information down and share it.
“The only difference now is the technology that has made local conversations global and instantly recordable, retrievable and shareable.”
The Internet has given us an “infinite memory” for these social conversations.
Mr Christianson said brands should embrace online dissent and negative comments because “difference of opinion is important and helps companies move forward”.
Although a social media platform is a “page or a space that gives people one place to criticise us… there is a huge opportunity for brands to engage, get our point across and tell the truth”.
Mr Michie concurred with the point that brands can’t adopt a victim mentality when engaging with social media.
“Brands are going in there to benefit their businesses…they just have to understand the space and have the right resources in place.”
He suggested that brands with too much to hide probably need to evaluate whether they should engage with social media at all
“Skeletons in the closet, if you have them you need to be careful about who you’re inviting to your bedroom.”
Michie added that the ASB ruling was a blessing in disguise as it enforces best practise.
“You can’t just post something and walk away. It’s not a massively onerous task to monitor your social media channels.
IAA Australia Chapter President & Chair Heather Leembruggen said:  “Social media has completely changed the game. The opportunities are enormous but the risks even more so. 
“As such the IAA knew it was vital to get the industry’s thought leaders together to debate these very salient issues and develop solutions.”
IMAGE CAPTION: (FROM LEFT TO RIGHT): The IAA panels at this morning’s breakfast forum: Aaron Michie, David Whittle, Nathan Rosenberg, Alina Bain and Ron Christianson.
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