Dealing with Unexpected Consequences and Seth Godin

So how does, one deal with unintended consequences?

Honestly and quickly.

As part of my explanation, I will begin by telling you that I am a fan of Seth Godin. He considers himself a marketer and entrepreneur and agent of change. What I love most about him is that he makes me think.

Godin recently launched Brands in Public. His company, Squidoo, was going to set up a place that would aggregate content from around the Web, highlighting the good and informing of the bad, while letting the companies respond to the feedback. Not a bad idea – and his business model for doing this would result in annual payments from each of these companies totaling about $5,000.

The criticism came due to Godin’s decision to actively set up 200 of these ‘Brands In Public’ lenses (consider a “lense” like a location or site) before launch without the consent of the companies involved. The companies would be locked out of the lenses until they decided to sign up and pay up for the almost $5,000 a year service. At which time the lens would be unlocked. Some called it brandjacking, with online branding effectively taken hostage with a price on its head for release.

Needless to say the reaction to the model and its implementation was harsh.

However, Godin’s response was swift.

In his daily blog post, two days after launch, he wrote:

The response from the brands we’ve shared it with has been terrific, but other people didn’t like elements of it. And they were direct in letting me know.

The goal of the program is to invite brands into the conversation that’s already going on around the web, to make it easy for them to do it on their terms. I talked with a brand manager yesterday who explained that this is exactly what he’s been trying to do for his company, but the corporate website systems make that difficult for him. We want to open the door and to permit large brands a way to get started without having to roll their own solution.

One way we tried to encourage that was to build 200 sample pages, pages brands could adopt. Alas, some people felt that this was inappropriate, so we’ve recalibrated and we’ll take those pages down before the end of the day.

When a brand wants a page, we’ll build it, they’ll run it and we’ll both have achieved our goals.

Part of the magic of the web is that you can adjust as you go, particularly if you’re willing to listen.

I apologize if anyone was confused by my original post, and we’re looking forward to having major brands and non-profits using this tool the way we intended–to join in to the conversation that’s already happening all around us. Thanks as always for reading.

Putting aside the questions of whether Godin’s idea and implementation were appropriate, he does get points for addressing the problem honestly and in a hurry and that, I think, earns him the right to try again.

* * * * *

As to my post the other day about my recent experience with Continental Airlines, I received this response from Continental’s Customer Service Manager, Denise Epstein.

Your letter has brought up several very valid points. These are consequences that I have pondered, however, you have put them in words in a thoughtful and straightforward manner.

I will include your letter with the original complaint that was filed on your behalf. This includes your contact information if our management team needs to contact you.

I’ll let you know if it goes any further…

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