Cell C and Noahgate. Some lessons.
As I drove back from my interview with Ashraf Garda on the radio show Media@SAFM on Sunday I thought about the conversation that I have got involved in regarding the new Cell C campaign.
The whole thing started with a video posted on YouTube on Wednesday 28th July. The video was supposed to be a segment of comedian Trevor Noah’s comedy show in which he ripped into all the South African cell phone networks.
The fairy tale was that the Cell C CEO was so concerned on seeing the video that he placed a full page ad of apology to Trevor Noah and all of South Africa, promising better service and within a few hours offered Trevor Noah the job as the CEO (Customer Experience Officer) a kind of independent referee on Cell C customer service called telltrevor . In these few hours they also set up a rather large website development.
For good measure Cell C also changed their logo and announced how they were going to change the standard of cell phone connections with a new network.
The only thing is that it’s all a fantasy.
I had been pulled into the controversy firstly by commenting favourably on the Cell C apology, naively as it turns out. You see I had never expected a major marketing company to pull a stunt you would really only expect from “Honest Joe’s Used Cars.”
I was full of praise that at last a South African corporate had understood a little of Social Media strategy – listening and then responding, swiftly and with gravitas to a complaint. Why Cell C’s Full Page apology was a Marketing Masterstroke.
I was really disappointed when I found out from blogger Marc Forrest, Cell C the Joke is on you that it had all been a stunt. I felt it important to respond and did so here Cell C is Astroturfing, What a Joke
This was picked up by Radio Highveld news and Media@SAFM. And Mandy de Waal wrote a really good article with comments on Daily Maverick
This is a pulling together of my thoughts.
- The media landscape has changed. Customers are connected and vocal. Dan Gilmour calls them the ‘Former Audience” because they have the power to generate as well as consume content. They are active participants in the branding process.
- The first step in new marketing is listening. Listening to what the customers are saying and responding with solutions adding to their experience as well as with honesty and so building relationships based on trust.
- The second is building an experience for your customer, an experience that they will value and tell their friends about, in other words build brand fans.
- The principle underlying marketing in an always on and always connected world is that the customers have control. This could be described as a democratisation of marketing because in this world your communication is a discussion not a lecture. Brands can no longer tell customers what they should believe and with enough media spend, shout at them until they believe.
- New marketing is really about preparing the environment for the idea (which is what a brand is) to spread. It’s like as a farmer prepares the field creating the right environment for the crops to grow, the marketer must nurture the brand in a partnership with its fans.
So what has Cell C done wrong?
- If you are going to poke the sleeping bear with a pointed stick you had better have a well thought out plan, because it may wake up. The core of this is the customer’s experience.
- Does Cell C have a demonstrably better network than either Vodacom or MTN?
- Does Cell C have demonstrably better customer service?
- If not then they have set themselves up for a very bloody nose.
- If you want to have a relationship with your customers, the foundation of that relationship is trust.
- So is it a good idea to try pulling a stunt and spinning a yarn?
- Is it a good idea to pretend that a new independent customer service system had been set up?
- Why would I want to tell Trevor instead of Cell C?
- You don’t try to hoodwink your customer, even if you think its funny. Don’t make a fool of him, especially if your intention is to make him a hero.
- Once you start a relationship with subterfuge it taints the rest of the relationship.
- Customer service is a company culture thing. Pretending to outsource customer service to a comedian with no record as a consumer champion is bizarre.
- Is appointing a comedian as your customer experience officer a message to tell everyone that your customer service is a joke.
- Cell C has launched a new logo – but their TV ads still carry the old logo, that is just sloppy, and a message in itself.
What I would suggest:
- Cell C get your network working, your outlets working and make sure that your customers are getting a superior experience.
- Your customers don’t care how good you say you are, they care about their cell phone service
- Then develope the tools to let your customers tell the rest of us about it. Because they are going to do it anyway.
- Then go on and invite the rest of us in to join the conversation, using all media.
I am reminded of an article I read in the Huffington Post yesterday, called The dark side of vitaminwater it reveals that Coke’s legal team, who are defending a consumer protection lawsuit claiming that Coke has misled its customers into believing that vitaminwater is healthy, with the argument that “no consumer could reasonably be misled into thinking vitamin water was a healthy beverage.” What twisted logic. Is Cell C under the illusion that they can treat their customers the same way, follow the same kind of strategy and same kind of defence if they get called out.
The fairy tale is just a fairy tale and we now know that. What we also now know for certain, because Trevor told us, is that the Cell C network is terrible.
In: Advertising, Customer Service, Marketing, social media · Tagged with: Astro turfing, Cell C, Cell Phone, South Africa, Trevor Noah