Across Europe people are counting down to the start of summer. It’s time to shake off winter doldrums, get out and have some fun.
Huge sports events and concert tours kick off. This season’s concert lineup promises to be huge with big names like The Rolling Stones, Justin Timberlake, Jay-Z, Pink, Beyonce and One Direction headlining world tours. In sports, this summer brings the 2013 UEFA Champions League Final in London, arguably the biggest football event in the world, and the World Masters Games in Torino, Italy.
Best Global Brand Coca-Cola, consistently earning the number one spot on Interbrand's annual report, is kicking off a number of concerts and sporting events this summer. Starting May 16 in Manchester, UK, Relentless kicks off a series of house parties across England, co-hosted and co-curated with local musicians, featuring live performances and popular DJs. Delphic headlines the first show also showcasing Bipolar Sunshine and Egyptian Hip Hop.
May 24 – May 25 in Köln, Germany, O’Neill Wake the Line launches. Transforming the Köln Stadium into a wakeboard course, top riders from around the world will compete for prize money and prestige while concerts and after parties feature groups like Die Orsons and Flo Mega and popular DJs.
The house parties and unique sports events align with the brand's image as part of a young, active lifestyle. The brand successfully appeals to Millennials with a high-energy website featuring films on extreme sports, athletes and footage of various Relentless festivals. The films have garnered thousands of views on YouTube and the brand engages its fans on Twitter and Facebook as well.
The brand’s summer events not only offer it an opportunity to create memorable branded experiences for consumers, it's a chance for Relentless to reconnect with loyal consumers after this winter’s new packaging design release was met with customer complaints. In the post-digital world brands get feedback real-time and in this case, countless comments of dislike and protest in its social media communities.
In February Relentless revamped its packaging with an emphasis on a much clearer color-coding of the varieties. In the course of the redesign, however, they dropped an important functional benefit: the re-sealable top of the can.
The new packaging color palette differentiated itself from those of competitors like Red Bull and Monster, but with that move Relentless lost some of its visual punch and some felt the design was "a bit too light" for an energy drink. One critic I spoke with noted, "it feels like switching from AC/DC to Coldplay while keeping the lyrics."
Loyal fans were most upset to see the re-sealable can part become history. One fan went so far as to write a 450-word Relentless love-story, ending in a break-up with the brand posted on its Facebook page.
While Relentless has had success connecting with fans in social media, its handling of the backlash didn't help matters with answers that seemed copy and paste instead of authentic, organic conversations. The brand's approach seemed to fuel the complaints.
Alexander Murray, a strategy director for Interbrand Tokyo comments regarding the potential for social media "disasters" for brands and strategies to avoid them, "With many social media ‘disasters’ a fast, decisive response can help reduce any risk of long-term damage to the brand. However, this can be one of the hardest things to achieve. 'Company culture' ('the way we do things around here') is critically important. It allows people to respond quickly and instinctively to unpredictable situations."
"It is a cliché," Murray adds, "but the time to take action is before you have a problem. People need to know what the right thing to do is, before they are faced with a situation where they have to make a decision. Managing a brand in the new social world is less about dictating rules and more about empowering people."
Nora Geiss, a director and digital strategist for Interbrand New York's Verbal Identity department adds, "Social media 'disasters' almost always represent an opportunity just as much as they represent potential for damage. The difference between an opportunity and a path to damage depends on how well the brand is listening to the conversation around their efforts, how responsive they are in the immediate term, and how strategically they approach evolving their response in a meaningful way over the long term."
"Ultimately it still comes down to transparency and genuine interest in the concerns of your audience," Geiss says. "A good rule of thumb: If your customer is standing in front of you in person sharing the same concerns that they share over social media, what would you do? How would you respond? What promises would you make to address their concerns? And how would you keep the conversation going?"
Relentless now has the opportunity to tap into the energy of its summer lineup and position itself as a BandC rather than a B2C. Now is the time to build a social media strategy going forward to build on and grow from consumer feedback in a positive and genuine way. As Patrick Stal, MD of Interbrand Amsterdam says, "With social media missteps, consumers understand that brands are human, make mistakes and are usually willing to move on with the brand if there’s genuine communication going forward."
Christoph Meyer-Roscher is part of Interbrand Hamburg's Design Team.