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5 lessons your business can learn from how ING Canada averted a social media crisis

ING Canada averted a social media crisis when it pulled a recent TV ad. The incident is chock full of valuable lessons about how to do social media properly.

Dan Ovsey’s excellent interview with ING Canada’s CEO Peter Aceto about the incident provides the back story:

In early January 2013, ING Direct Canada put into market a new TV commercial to promote its RSP and TFSA products in advance of RSP season. The commercial depicted a clearly stressed out man who viewers soon discover was helped by his wife taking him to ING. It didn’t take long for consumers — who interpreted the ad as making light of symptoms often associated with mental illness — to voice their indignation through social media channels, including direct communication with ING Canada CEO Peter Aceto. The backlash forced the bank to decide whether to do away with the ads during a critical promotional period or sacrifice some of the brand equity it had earned among consumers by keeping the ads on air. ING ultimately chose to take down the ads.

In an industry that struggles with even the basics of the social business revolution, this incident and the conduct of ING Canada is an exceptional example of good social engagement.

There are at least 5 lessons that your business, whether you are operating in the financial services space or not, can learn from this situation:

1. Social media is a big focus group, so stop ignoring it.

Whatever internal review you do before releasing a marketing campaign publicly, once you are public social networks are the best focus group you can ever hope for. And the feedback is free. So stop ignoring and devaluing it and LISTEN.

2. Always try to see the world through your critics’ eyes.

When you really do listen, possibilities open up to see the world differently. And you get smarter because of it. When you try to see the world through your critics’ eyes, when you empathize and accept responsibility, your business benefits.

3. CEOs and their businesses can benefit greatly by being social.

ING Canada’s CEO Peter Aceto has a Twitter account that he manages himself. As soon as the negative response to the ING ads surfaced, Aceto heard about it. Directly, in real time. The CEO. Unfiltered by the handlers and marketing spindoctors. Since he was the chief executive and he understood the social space, he could take swift action to address the problem before it became much worse.

4. Social media happens in real time.

Be prepared to act quickly in social. If the CEO isn’t socially savvy and tuned in, then you better have a process in place to deputize someone else to be listening and make quick decisions on behalf of your organization.

5. Your brand, and the trust people place in it, is a precious investment.

You work hard to build your brand and earn people’s trust. Make sure you keep that brand and your customers’ trust clearly in mind when you engage in social. No marketing campaign is worth damaging that trust. Accept accountability, don’t deny it. And be willing to admit a mistake and take corrective action.

Effective social media is about BEING your brand and not just telling people about it.

In fact, if you embody your brand’s value with integrity, you won’t have to tell people about your brand. Because they’ll tell each other.

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