Brand to consumers: Stop being so gullible

Posted by Lori Luechtefeld on April 30th, 2010 at 12:00 am

If you spend any reasonable amount of time as a brand marketer, at some point you're going to find yourself in the position of having to defend your company against a rumor. And sometimes these rumors can be unfounded -- even absurd. But that's not to say people out there don't believe them. After all, they read it -- it must be true.

This is precisely the situation yogurt maker Danone found itself in with regard to its Actimel brand in Argentina. Months ago, a viral email began circulating that pointed readers to a site claiming that Actimel was addictive, destroyed the stomach's natural flora, and could harm children. The story spread online like wildfire.

So what did the brand do? It fought viral with viral -- and spread some rumors of its own, reports Ad Age. In addition to a responsive TV commercial and one-on-one blogger outreach, the company and its local digital agency, Sinus, decided to show people how easy it was to spread rumors online. The brand launched a rumor-creation website that allowed visitors to generate their own fibs in the form of fake news headlines, personalized with photos, and send them to their friends. The takeaway message?: Don't believe everything you see on the internet. The campaign was a success, with a reported 40,000 people generating more than 100,000 false rumors.

I appreciate this approach of not only addressing the issue at hand, but also educating the public on the broader problem of internet defamation attacks. The brand's response was a tactful way of saying, "Look, this isn't true. And maybe you shouldn't be such a gullible idiot in the future."

I wish I could wage a similar campaign against the next relative who forwards me an email telling me to microwave my passport for privacy reasons, or that my cell phone number is about to be released to telemarketers unless I ACT NOW.

Stay informed. For more tips on protecting your brand online, attend the iMedia Brand Summit, June 12-16. Learn more.

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