Why People Are So Angry On Social Media And In Their Cars And What You Can Do About It.

The other day I saw a woman verbally assault an older lady for changing lanes. The outburst was so loud I heard it driving in the opposite direction. It was also physically violent with shaking fists and offensive gestures directed at someone’s grandmother. Why can we be so mean and nasty when we’re behind 2-tons of steel when acting this same way in person would be unacceptable?

WebMD explains that road ragers don’t view other drivers as a person. Psychologist Ava Cadell says, “Road ragers don’t think about other people on the road as real people with real families.” We see this in social media as well. Research has shown that online anonymous commenting breeds mean-spirited and sometimes downright nasty attacks. People who intentionally post negative messages are referred to as Internet Trolls.

Why all the intentionally negative comments? A new study “Trolls Just Want To Have Fun” found online trolling can be a form of sadism. They post comments or messages to start arguments or get an emotional reaction from others. I’ve been telling my son, in the context of middle school, if someone calls you a nickname you don’t like, the last thing you want to do is get mad saying, “I don’t like that!” That will only make them call you it more! Apparently we can revert to middle school when we get behind the wheel or a smartphone.

Brands can become the target of all this hatred and it can seriously hurt business. Dimensional Research reports 86% of respondents who recalled reading online reviews said buying decisions were influenced by negative online reviews and most of these negative reviews happen on online ratings sites. What can marketers do?

There are new online reputation-management services, but The Wall Street Journal says many are falsely claiming that they can remove bad reviews. Yelp warns to stay away from services offering to remove negative reviews or otherwise boost your ratings for a fee saying it can’t be done. Angie’s List agrees saying that bad reviews can not simply be wiped off the site. Instead, Google suggests reducing the visibility of negative content by publishing useful, positive information and not trying to game the system.

eInsurance gives us insight into dealing with road ragers that could also apply to trolls. They advise that it takes two to start a fight. So don’t confront or over react to highly negative comments. William Comcowich of Cyber Alert gives similar advice saying “Don’t Feed the Trolls.” Avoid the following types of responses to negative commenters:

  • Emotional responses. If a post makes you angry, wait an hour before responding. Once a negative response is out on the Internet, you can’t take back.
  • Wrong information. Negative commenters live to prove you wrong. Make sure what you say is true and up-to-date.
  • Lengthy explanations. Long responses trying to prove you’re right merely give the attention they want and provide ground for new arguments.

This doesn’t mean you should ignore legitimate complaints from customers. If you honestly made a mistake, acknowledge it in a short and friendly manner. Humility and fixing something can go a long way towards turning a foe into a friend.

Of course there are exceptions. Some have grown tired of the power of ratings over their business and are fighting back against the rating sites. Botto Bistro has started a campaign to discredit the restaurant’s Yelp rating. It is running ads encouraging its customers to leave one-star reviews for 25% off any pizza to become the worst-rated restaurant in the Bay Area. As you can see below, the one-star ratings do come with somewhat sarcastic negative reviews that leave an overall positive impression.

Whether you are dealing with an angry driver, commenter or middle schooler, it is best to try and diffuse the situation.

Research Says Add New Media, But Don’t Drop The Old: Study Of Over 400 Successful Marketing Campaigns.

Last fall my colleagues and I published research in the International Journal of Integrated Marketing Communications. Our study “IMC and The Effies” analyzed integrated marketing communications touchpoints used in 421 Effie Award-winning campaigns from 1998-2010 – campaigns awarded for marketing effectiveness.

In case you are not familiar with them, Effie Award-winners are proven success stories. Each campaign has supported its effectiveness with verifiable data that demonstrates it has met its marketing and advertising objectives. As indicated below, what we saw was an increased use in the number of marketing touchpoints from roughly two (such as TV and print) to six (such as TV, print, radio, PR, Interactive, Consumer Involvement).

The Number of Touchpoints for a Successful Effie Campaign has Increased
The number of consumer touchpoints for a Successful Effie Campaign has Increased

Of those communications touchpoints, public relations, interactive marketing, guerilla marketing and consumer involvement showed noteworthy increases over time. Over the last 13 years, marketing has changed dramatically and the practice of IMC (Integrated Marketing Communications) has increased greatly. Successful Effie Award marketing has increasingly used more multimedia communications campaigns and less single-media touchpoint campaigns.

Effie Awards
Traditional media used to rule, but now new media is a key ingredient to marketing success.

What can we learn from this? 

First, marketing campaigns should be built on multimedia touchpoints. I talk a lot about the power of social media, but what you will notice here is that interactive (social media) alone is not the key ingredient to success. Traditional media such as TV is no longer the dominate medium, yet it has not gone away. Integrated multimedia efforts are needed today to break through the media clutter and reach an increasingly fragmented audience. Have you been so caught up in the social media hype that you have forgotten traditional advertising media?

Second, public relations and interactive media play an increasingly important role in effective campaigns and should be considered as a part of an integrated multimedia marketing campaign. It’s hard to ignore digital efforts, but are you leveraging PR to its full extent? Public relations is especially important for Startups. Can you hold an event around your product or campaign? How can you turn your marketing into a news story? I saw Alex Bogusky speak at an AWEEK Creativity conference years ago and he said CP&B always tried to create PR-able Advertising. The result was viral successes such as BK Subservient Chicken to their Mini campaign.

Finally, our study over 400 successful campaigns gave another insight. In addition to public relations and interactive media, marketers should also consider direct email, design, cinema, sponsorships, guerrilla, and consumer involvement media. Any surprises here? You’re probably using email, but what about sponsorships? Sponsoring local activities ties into PR and event tactics. Sponsoring non-profit / charity events that your target cares about taps into the increasing influence of cause marketing. Consumer involvement is word-of-mouth, consumer generated media and viral, which should be the fuel adding to your integrated flame.

The Super Bowl is a prime example of these changes – watch the TV ad hype leading up to the game in the next couple of weeks. Even though the Super Bowl is one of the last remaining mass media outlets, advertisers now depend on pre- and post-game public relations and digital media tactics to generate buzz outside the actual broadcast. Successful marketers who have won Effie Awards are adding more communication touchpoints over the years, but not dropping traditional outlets. So as we continue to hype up new media, don’t forget the old.

Can Retail Make Room For Showrooming?

Retail stores have had to deal with an increasing threat to their sales as smartphone ownership has crossed 50% and more consumers are using stores as a “showroom” before buying goods online. This especially became a problem for retailer Target when Amazon offered a 5% discount to anyone who used their Price Check app to scan a bar code of an item in a store and then bought it from the website. As a result, Target dropped Kindle from shelves saying, “What we aren’t willing to do is let online-only retailers use our brick-and-mortar stores as a showroom for their products and undercut our prices.” Not too long after Walmart followed suit by dropping Kindles from their stores.

How big is this problem? A recent survey says 50% of respondents with smartphones research prices while in store, 1 in 3 who research prices leave and buy from a competitor, and 96% plan to “showroom” in the future.

So what can retailers do? An article in Forbes suggests three strategies:
1. Begin a strategic conversation between brands and retailers. Through dual distribution or multichannel marketing they often end up competing against each other. Big retailers such as Best Buy need to develop exclusives to keep customers coming and buying. Tom Van Riper from Forbes said this is how Barnes & Noble kept Amazon from closing their business by developing the Nook.
2. Embrace customization as a key area of strategic growth. Large shoe brands such as Reebok and Nike are seeing revenue numbers in the $100 million range with their custom shoe programs.
3. Focus on the customer experience. Forrester research says 35% of shoppers want to purchase custom products to stand out from their peers. But also consider custom buying experiences for long term loyalty and engagement.

Mashable suggests innovation as another way to battle showrooming and talks about a store in Australia which started charging consumers $5 just to walk into the store. Before you start a retail cover charge also consider new digital marketing services that engage shoppers to entice them to stores. For example, Target has announced plans to price-match online competitors, such as Amazon. And Brian Gillespie, principal at a service design firm, suggests encouraging “webrooming” (the opposite of showrooming) where shoppers search for products they want online, and then head into the store to make a purchase.

Gillespie makes a good point. It comes down to retailers creating an in-store experience exceptional enough to keep consumers purchasing in-store. The kind of customer service Nordstrom offers and enhanced with digital environments. But will that kind of service draw a crowd for toilet paper at Target the same way it does for Eau de toilette at Nordstrom?