Experience Marketing: The New Crisis Management Communication Channel

Crisis management may be the trickiest of all the corporate communications professionals’ challenges to master. When you’ve got this one down, you’ve reached "master" status.

Mastering this one though has gotten both harder and easier than ever through two major communications channel breakthroughs in the past couple of years.

Social media makes it harder than ever because of the lack of assurance that all voices in the dialogue will be authentic. If your product is allegedly defective, it’s pretty much guaranteed that people will be talking about it online. That’s expected, and authentic discourse actually benefits everyone, including the brand. The downside though is the me too effect of deranged hangers on with too much time on their hands; whacko’s of a sort who although they may not have had any real experience with the brand, get a vicarious thrill from falsely fanning the flames and piling on through made up stories of disasters experienced at the hands of the corporation. Dealing with that is a whole ‘nother seminar. Obviously, a groundswell can help drive in the other direction too.

Also on the positive side, the rise of Experience Marketing offers crisis management a newly powerful communications channel to integrate into an overall approach. When the media frenzy around Toyota’s alleged safety issues reached its peak, this leading brand did a lot of things right, but one of the most interesting things it did was to go experiential.

Observing their play from a distance, one could imagine their communications staff wondering what to do at a time when people might be reluctant to visit dealerships and might be skeptical of paid advertising statements. So rather than waiting for people to come to the brand, they brought their brand to the people by setting up test drive stations in shopping mall parking lots.

The experience that I saw first hand was really “experience smart.” It was confident, subtle, and inviting. The environments were branded but very simply, leaving the emphasis on the brand ambassadors and the cars themselves. This gave consumers a chance to do something that experience marketing provides better than any other marketing channel; a chance to "look the brand in the eye" and judge its authenticity and values for themselves.

This approach enabled conversations with brand ambassadors who simply offered people a chance to take a short drive and to ask questions. All the hype of the media fell away and what remained were one-on-one conversations and interactions that showed the brand’s sincere interest in the concerns of consumers regarding the safety of drivers and quality of the product.

No doubt that all the other tactics Toyota deployed around that time helped send the right message to the marketplace. But there’s equally no doubt that the one-on-one experiences of consumers had to register high on the persuasion scale. This demonstrated a brilliant command of the medium as applied to crisis management. Masterfully done.

No comments:

Post a Comment