Sometimes, when I’m talking with a prospect or a client about internet marketing and online brand/reputation management, and I tell them that there’s probably a conversation going on online about their brand or product, they dismiss the subject. I’ve had responses like “Nobody pays attention to bloggers” or “Our audience isn’t online” or “So few people will ever find out about this that we don’t need to worry.”
In response I trot out cautionary tales like Dell’s Burning Laptop Story or the Dell Hell story by Buzz Machine blogger Jeff Jarvis or the disgruntled Spirit Airlines passenger story I first found out about on B.L. Ochman’s wonderful What’sNextblog.com. There’s also a good list of other “Brands Punk’d by Social Media” on the Forrester Interactive Blog.
So anyway, I found this photo-investigation by Mike Adams the other day about Energizer rechargeable batteries. It seems that buried within a D-sized case is a smaller rechargeable battery with the same power as a AA. Now, the post looks at this from the point of view of a possible conspiracy theory intended by the battery companies to sell inferior rechargeable batteries in order to push people back to the more profitable disposables, and I’m not going to touch that one at all.
But what I am curious about is why it seems that Energizer has ignored the online conversation about this product. Why they haven’t posted a response on blogs like this thread titled “Energizer “D” Battery Exposed” on the AboveTopSecret.com? According to Quantcast, AboveTopSecret.com has a rank of 3,194 and gets over 2 million visits per month from over 803,000 unique people. In other words, an audience worth talking to. And the thread itself is wonderful. It gets 35 Stars, which seems like a good number of stars to me. Lots of data about batteries, and lots of discussion about the kind of marketing Energizer is engaging in. The general consensus (but by no means the only point of view) of the thread is that even though Energizer was honest on the packaging as to the charge, the D-shape of the outer casing of the battery would lead people to the conclusion that the battery functioned the way they thought a standard D-Battery would. There’s even some disapproval of the how the writer, Mike Adams, used his investigation to also sell a competitive brand of rechargeable batteries at the end of the article, and whether the article was in some way compensated.
All in all, an intelligent, sober, enthusiastic, and mutually-respectful conversation all about batteries, charges, chemicals, durations, branding, marketing, packaging, pricing, reporting, blogging and more. This is exactly the playground Energizer should be playing in. Did they join the conversation? Not that I could tell from reading the 5 page long thread.
Here’s a review on Amazon from last December. Did Energizer post a comment? Not at the time of this writing.
At this point in time, it amazes me that there are still professional marketers and advertisers out there who fail to recognize the importance of the internet and the conversations being had in tiny groups of 20 or 30 or larger groups of thousands and millions.
And yet, there are. Intelligent, successful, marketers who think Energizer is following the right strategy.
What I’m hoping is that one of them reads this post. Because I just don’t get the reticence to embrace social computing, social media, Web 2.0, whatever you want to call it. (By the way, Dell learned from their mistakes, engaged their community, took the hits and came out better for it!)
So, can someone please explain to me why Energizer didn’t engage this community, and why similar companies continue to make the same decision.