“Not everyone is going to like you, sweetheart” is a message our parents would tell us that we’d all do well to remember. At the time it may have felt like another pointless piece of advice our parents say to prevent us from being crushed by the crippling need to be liked at school, but it’s true. Not everyone is going to like you, your business or the products you sell. And that’s okay.
The real challenge comes in how you respond to disparaging remarks or reviews.
While it’s imperative to take negative feedback seriously, your brand should embrace and recognise the opportunity that criticism brings by turning bad PR into a PR win. In an age where consumers have unfettered access to a platform to air their grievances in the form of social media, brands cannot escape or ignore scrutiny. They are however in control of how they choose to respond.
Consumers want their voice to be heard, but this doesn’t mean that brands can’t be creative. Although complaints regarding safety or poor service shouldn’t be taken lightly, dislike or indifference doesn’t require a grovelling apology. This is where brands can distinguish themselves and employ some self-deprecating humour to lighten the mood.
Criticism should be a springboard for a brand to bounce back, not a weight around the neck that sinks it.
Here are some inventive examples of how brands have harnessed the power of being disliked and used it to their advantage.
Banksy taunts the Met
When you’re involved in defacing public property and poking fun at the police, it’s safe to assume the boys in blue won’t look favourably on your work. When Banksy monetised his life of crime in the form of a book release, you can imagine the contempt the police would have held him in. The sheer cheek of making money from breaking the law and evading arrest wouldn’t have been lost on them.
If releasing a book wasn’t audacious enough, he wrote to the Metropolitan Police requesting a comment to use as a review. A spokesperson responded disapprovingly by saying “there's no way you're going to get a quote from us to use on your book cover" – which he then used on the iconic front cover.
BrewDog dress staff in negative customer reviews
When punters expressed their disgust at the prices and layout of their bars, BrewDog responded in a way so bold it almost matched the daring flavours of their pints. Instead of lamenting on the opinions of people they deem to be incompatible with their product, they took the words of criticism and made their staff wear them. Considering BrewDog open sites at a rate of 30 per year and 2019 will almost surely see the opening of their 100th site, their confidence hasn’t been misplaced and certainly hasn’t impacted trading.
KFC come out on top in a game of chicken
If a chicken shop had one job it would be to make sure they didn’t run out of chicken. So, when the nation’s favourite supplier of delicious fried chicken ran out of their all essential ingredient, you’d think it would be pandemonium. Well, it kind of was as hungry KFC fanatics couldn’t get their fix and resorted to dialling 999 in a blind panic… but how did KFC respond? They rearranged the letters of their logo and branded their buckets with ‘FCK’ which effectively rewrote the manual for corporate crisis management.
Brave brands gain credibility; apologising profusely is dangerous. It can appear disingenuous. Of course, there are instances where an apology is necessary, but issuing an apology for someone who doesn’t like the taste of your beer or the colour of staff uniforms is bordering the ridiculous. A brand that can demonstrate a sense of humour and not take itself so seriously is a brand that regular folk can connect with and above all else respect.
What brands tackle criticism in a creative way? Do you think adopting such a bold approach can alienate or endear customers? Tweet us @otbtweeter with your thoughts, examples and reasons why.