Responding to Smart Consumers

The other day I caught a small snippet of a segment on Channel 7’s The Morning Show on ‘creative complaining’. It explained to viewers just how to go about making a complaint to a company online to get their attention and see results.

While online it is far simpler for customers to lodge complaints and feedback, and more obvious when they are unsatisfied, this is perhaps an OPPORTUNITY for PR to be excellent and satisfactory and perfect.

Consumers are getting smart. Steve Colquhoun writes in his article Setting the agenda online in an age of smart consumers:

For the first time in my career, I feel that the consumers are as smart, if not smarter, than the people in marketing today.

Despite this, PR is what it has always been, even before Web 2.0:

the planned and sustained effort to establish and maintain goodwill and mutual understanding between an organisation and its publics

(Full definition found here.)

Erika Morphy discusses the argument that luxury fashion brands need only ‘show up’ on social media.

However, I would suggest that fashion brands must also endeavour to engage their audiences online. The following slideshare presentation provides some examples on how a fashion brand may go about doing this:

Last week we talked about the need for luxury fashion brands to not let the power of the people on Web 2.0 make their own power as an authority on trend, style, and taste obsolete. One way of doing this is using Web 2.0, and its immediacy effect for fast and satisfying customer service, and collaborating with the public rather than ‘just showing up’.

What do you think? What may be some examples of brands having used Web 2.0 to engage publics?

Fashion Brand Identity in Web 2.0

In Web 2.0, the people have the power.

For fashion PR, this poses a challenge. Fashion-conscious consumers the world wide are often very vocal about their good and bad experiences with certain brands, leaving the brand’s identity open to attack and manipulation.

Perhaps this is particularly so with “luxury” fashion brands such as Vogue.

In a recent interview with Encore Magazine, Kirstie Clements spoke on this in regards to her time as editor at Vogue. Interestingly, she makes the point that Vogue, as a luxury fashion brand, needs to set the agenda on fashion.

It may seem that this idea of ‘setting the agenda’ is rather outdated. However, for luxury brands it is this strong, authoritative voice that makes them so coveted and powerful.

How fitting - the cover story "The Future is Now"

How fitting – the cover story “The Future is Now”

Many of the posts on Vogue’s Facebook page are about ‘what to wear’, or ‘the season’s new looks’. There is minimal room for negative feedback as Vogue is often directing conversation a certain way. The page’s 3,000,000+ followers speaks for itself. People love and respect Vogue.

Luxury fashion brands, while possibly preferring and suiting the more traditional one-way communication media framework, must also recognise that social media is here to stay, and they must take part in the discussion. Dana Gers notes in an article on Forbes, that:

Brand makers that don’t create their own conversation with their most passionate customers through social networks risk having a passionate consumer create that presence instead. Facebook and Twitter are cluttered with brand sites that weren’t created and aren’t maintained by marketers.

Without a structured response and position in social media, brands risk losing their identities, or having them warped by the power of the public.

This highlights that while the people may have the power, this does not give fashion brands the option of relinquishing this power. They must find a way to use it to their advantage.