Day 2 of Guest Writer Week continues with SearchEngineGuide’s Jennifer Laycock:
I mention it any time I give a talk about the benefits of viral marketing…the absolute need to understand that viral marketing campaigns can quickly get out of control. No company should ever launch a viral campaign without some plan of action for how to scale if the response is larger than you’d imagined. Apparently the team at Starbucks missed that segment of Viral Marketing 101.
What happened? Well, according to DM News, Starbucks sent out an email to Atlanta area employees featuring a printable coupon for a free Grande beverage. The email asked the recipients to forward it to friends and family members.
As you can imagine, they did….in droves. According to DM News:
However, the e-mail spread faster than Starbucks predicted, landing in e-mail boxes coast to coast, as well as being sold on auction sites like eBay.
Rather than honoring the coupon and counting the email as a success, Starbucks has claimed that the email went beyond the scope of their original intent and is therefore no longer valid. The move is not only an example of extreme failure to plan, but also marks the early makings of an online reputation management nightmare. Chances are high that allowing for the redemption of the coupons would have cost far less than the long-term negative publicity that could come from Starbucks refusal to honor the coupons.
That said, not all coffee companies are missing the boat when it comes to viral marketing. Starbucks competitor Caribou Coffee announced via the Denver Post that they would happily honor the now void Starbucks coupons at their own stores this Friday, September 8th.
From the Denver Post:
Customers who bring in the now void Starbucks coupon will receive a free medium Cold Press iced coffee, Iced Americano or Iced Tea.
“We want to introduce gourmet coffee lovers to a great new product, Cold Press iced coffee,” said Michael Coles, chief executive of Minneapolis-based Caribou.
Sounds like a company that’s smart enough to manage not only their own online reputations, but to keep an eye on that of their competitors as well. Small business owners would be wise to take note of how both Starbucks and Caribou Coffee are handling this situation. Key take away points?
1.) Never ever EVER launch a viral marketing campaign if you aren’t willing and able to scale to the level required by a successful campaign.
2.) Just slightly behind the importance of tracking your own reputation online is the idea of tracking your competitors.
3.) A great viral campaign doesn’t have to be one that you come up with on your own. Sometimes it simply means stepping in and taking over when someone else does it poorly.