I come from a long line of arm-chair activists. My great grandfather once wrote 32 letters to the neighborhood library asking them to remove Nabokov’s Lolita from the Books for Teens section. He eventually won the battle but lost the war when all copies of Lolita were completely removed from the library. I have carried the family legacy on and become modern day’s closet digital vigilante, monitoring brands and their campaigns in the by-lanes of the internet.

Brands have values and feelings too:

It’s great that thanks to Google and Facebook, brands now have more consumer insights than ever before. From a communication professional’s point of view, this makes the internet a land of milk and honey: better campaigns tailored for the target group, great potential in reach and a whole lot of millennial pink.

In this ecosystem, brands enjoy the close comfort and also immediate wrath of their consumers. Scroll through a major US cosmetic brand’s social accounts, and you will find numerous comments asking them to own up and stop their animal testing practices. This is the self-actualized consumer who tries as much as possible to watch her environmental and social impact. We support brands who stand up for their values and demonstrate this in the actions they take and the brand campaigns they run.

The world of social media is our de facto public square:

As we go further down the rabbit hole of customer service and response management, the sun rises on a popular salon here in the GCC. They are so popular that in my 40-member office, at least 90% of the women visit them regularly or have visited them once in the last three months. I follow their social media pages and a particular series of videos uploaded recently caught my eye.

It was a voxpop style series with men talking about what type of hair they like on women. They were laughing and cringing about how someone realized the girl they were with had hair extensions. The second video asked men if they like red lipstick on a woman. The third some other outrageous gender conformist question… it was a horror series of gender stereotyping by a ladies only premium salon in Dubai.  The vigilante in me went nuts.

I tagged fellow feminists and liked comments by other women that said “I wear red lipstick because I like it”.  My friends and I commented on each video. We felt as offended as someone being personally insulted.

What happened next?

Nope. Nothing. They deleted my comments and all other comments that anyone posted about the videos being offensive to women.

Is media training part of your proposal?

As a communications professional, if you are offering PR services, chances are media training is part of your skillset. If you include digital marketing as a service, it is high time you include consumer training in your offer. Brands need to act like responsible adults, if they want to gain the consumer’s trust and confidence.

Referrals and reviews run the world today and you my friend, are standing on the bridge that connects the brand with the customer. Don’t burn the bridge, teach a brand how to handle the sentiments of a consumer. Learn from international players who repeatedly get into the conversation to fix or stand by their claims. Recently, when I was tweeting about Careem’s data breach, they got on Twitter and replied to me assuring me that my credit card details are stored on separate servers. When I confronted Papa John’s and Carrefour UAE on bad service, they ensured someone from their customer service team called me to apologize. Kiehl’s Middle East even gifted me free eye cream once when I had complained about something (I complain a lot, you can tell.) I respect these brands and stand by them, they are part of my day to day life after all.

Teach a brand to say sorry.