The practice of leaving negative comments or outright complaints on the social accounts of big brand companies is hardly new. Many disgruntled customers will turn on the public face of the corporation they want to vent about and, unless that brand knows how to react to these attacks, the whole thing can get very messy indeed. The social media disasters surrounding Nestle and Femfesh being two recent examples.
Positive responses to negative comments
So, when a guy called Richard Neill left a tongue in cheek, but dismissive post on the Bodyform Facebook page last week highlighting the years of 'false advertising' surrounding the product and its, er, uses, it attracted 86,000 likes and more than 3,600 comments in under 24 hours from other like-minded individuals.
So far, so funny but Bodyform decided to take the next step and respond with a spoof apology video which acknowledged that the images of women horse riding, roller blading and mountain biking had been used for years as metaphors to "protect men from the real truth about women's bodies". Beautifully pitched, the video has an almost perfect balance of understated sarcasm and knowing acknowledgement that the promotion of feminine hygiene products has often been cheesy, awkward and patronising.
The company also issued a statement on YouTube and Facebook stating that
“We loved Richard’s wicked sense of humour. We are always grateful for input from our users, but his comment was particularly poignant. If Facebook had a ‘love’ button, we’d have clicked it. But it doesn’t. So we’ve made Richard a video instead. Unfortunately Bodyform doesn’t have a CEO. But if it did she’d be called Caroline Williams. And she’d say this.”
At the time of writing, the response video has attracted 2,577,195 YouTube views along with 12,044 likes, 200 dislikes (all good, shows engagement) and 1177 comments - mostly very positive. Bodyform took a chance with a video that addresses a very real concern and they hit the mark - something that many other brands have found almost impossible to pull off. This is what skilful and well executed social engagement looks like.
Pro-active or Reactive Social Marketing?
Of course, if we were being super cynical then we'd argue that the whole initial Facebook post was a plant and the video response a very calculated piece of viral advertising. The video was devised, scripted, storyboarded, filmed, edited, signed off and launched in just over a week. Come on.....So, knee jerk reaction to potentially damaging Facebook post or carefully pre-planned video brand building exercise?
Who really cares, it works - it's irreverent, fun, shareable, embeddable and shows the 'personality' of a brand that in reality is merely a trademark of the Swedish based transnational company SCA. Amazingly enough, for a video that is all about the company message, the branding is kept very subtle throughout - there's no bumper to sit through, her desk isn't piled high with product and the famous/infamous theme song used on the TV adverts since forever is very cleverly introduced only near the very end via a ringtone. Of course, by that time you're pretty much bought into the video and the company advertising doesn't seem so jarring.
Rachael Lake, communications planning manager at Carat, who made the video stated that
"Bodyform's advertisements have a long, distinguished history that we wanted to build on in our film. Our carefully crafted response to the Facebook post is deliberately playful and uses video to present a humorous and spirited take on an often slightly taboo subject."
Since the release of the response video, Bodyform are believed to have called for a review of their digital advertising, currently estimated at approximately £25M per annum.