Web 2.0: How not to market your brand

I have made several postings recently on Virgin Atlantic's now famous letter of complaint featured on the telegraph and even BBC news. What started off as a hilarious email to Virgin by a customer disappointed about their food is fast becoming something of a PR nightmare.

Why? Because in the web 2.0 world you should never lie -You'll get caught. HollyMoly has posted that the "complaint email" was fake (read the update here.)

Now if this is true then it means Virgin, once one of the web 2.0 viral champions has well and truly fallen on its face. Not because they did something un-funny or violent but because they lied and then lied again.

Oh Virgin - How could you get it so wrong?

Simple -They forgot the golden rule of marketing in the web 2.0 environment - Be open. Now, this doesn't mean that you have to shout your brand across an advert or YouTube snippet, but it does mean that you need to own up to what you do. And most specifically, don't build another lie ontop of the one that you have already told as they have done here.

Thats the great thing about the internet - The truth will out.

(With that in mind I will state that I work for an airline in Asia, and none of my views represent that airline in any way. This is purely a personal kicking for the Virgin brand that I think they royally deserve.)

4 Responses to "Web 2.0: How not to market your brand"

Spike says
30 January 2009 at 08:49

Here's a question for you ....

"holymoly.com" says the letter is a PR stunt. They don't attribute this information to any source. I haven't seen it reported anywhere else. I never heard of holymoly until today.

How do you know that their "reporting" is accurate?

ali bullock says
30 January 2009 at 09:03

Its a fair point Spike - Holly Moly is a gossip site in the UK (and a famous one to us Brits.)

They do get a lot of information. Why? Because many people are fed up with mainstream media stories being fed by PR companies and just scooped up by the press.

(Though of course I stress not all fall into this category.)

Your own Huffington Post is a great example of this type of "citizen journalism" and I recall many people taking their editorial as fact when talking about the American election.

So if they are to be believed, why not Holly Moly? Of course they have not attributed a source - That is of course how they have this information.

They may not be correct, but the Virgin email looks a little to polished and so my own (and some others) have suspicion is that it is fake.

This may be an interesting case study for us all as the BBC and the Telegraph have run the story as true.

If it is true its genius marketing by Virgin, and if not, its a PR disaster that took in many.

This is going to run for a while.

Spike says
30 January 2009 at 09:15

I think it's part of the emperor has no clothes internet syndrome. People love to expose frauds and that love leads them to jump in the air and clap their hands when something is exposed as bogus. Holy Moly could well be correct but I think if you're going to point a finger at the BBC and say "a-ha! you screwed up!" you need to have a bit more behind you than just "someone told us." Heck, I just took a poke around the WCRS website and didn't see Virgin on their client list.

Something as simple as "after receiving this news from an anonymous source we called Virgin to confirm and they said blah blah blah" would up the believability quotient significantly.

Hey, it could still be a fake - but I think if we're so willing to believe that the BBC can be duped by a PR agency, then we have to be equally willing to believe that we can be duped by a gossip blog.

ali bullock says
30 January 2009 at 09:36

In fairness Spike I am not saying, "Ha! The BBC was fooled" (as was I.)

What I am saying is that clearly there is no smoke without fire. I take no pleasure in "outing" Virgin I merely suggest 2 things;

1. When you market online be very careful what you say. People can forgive mistakes but lies will come out

2. Why do Virgin need or want to do this at all? Their customer service is known as being excellent, they have a great crew (and having flown with them over at least 5 journeys) I can say they have been nothing but excellent.

This email was clearly leaked by their PR guys to the media and others, it went round just to quickly to be anything else.

Again, I merely point out that on the internet you need to be transparent.