People are talking about your brand whether you know it or not, want them to or not. It is no longer uncommon for stories to hit the social circles that shed light on a given company and its practices. Some stories are positive, but the more viral type tend to be the more dramatic and negative. The lesson here is to recognize that the conversation will at one time happen or is happening and you must decide the role you want to play around the discussion of your brand.
McDonald’s Canada is a great example of a brand taking it upon itself to proactively facilitate the discussion with their consumers. McDonald’s Canada launched a program in June 2012 called “Our Food. Your Questions.” The program has been showcased multiple times, including in this article in Fast Company to highlight how powerful the program has been in terms of participation. The general concept of the program is to respond to any and all questions people have about McDonald’s and that is just what they did. People submitted questions, McDonald’s shared those questions with direct answers on their website. Taking the response a step further, McDonald’s chose some questions and gave an in-depth, video-taped response from an appropriate expert at McDonald’s. All of this can be seen on Canada’s YouTube channel.
“So far, Canadians have asked more than 20,000 questions about our food. And we’ve answered every one – some with personal videos.” – McDonald’s Canada
The strategy behind this program is equally impressive. McDonald’s Canada took it upon themselves to open the floodgates, asking for any questions from consumers and not avoiding the tough ones. By taking a proactive role in the discussion, the brand is fully transparent about its products and operations. The result? Whether you eat at McDonald’s or not, this proactive approach leads to a more trustworthy and credible brand.
This concept applies equally to B2B companies. B2B companies are more focused on the relationships they have with customers, suppliers, distributors, etc. The idea remains the same — encourage feedback and facilitate a two-way dialogue no matter what type of question is asked. The communication channels may vary from the McDonald’s example highlighted here, but that’s up to the company to determine the most appropriate and effective way to engage with the brand.
This begs the question for companies: What are you doing to participate in and/or lead discussions about your brand?