It is controversy season on social media! First it was political warfare carried out by political outfits and personalities. Then Rajinikanth took the social media by storm with his famous entry and what followed after that. Now, restaurant-reviewing website Zomato.com faces wrath from consumers for a hiring ad it launched online.
The company had put out a post in its careers page underlining why Delhi is better than Bengaluru. Some of the reasons bordered on the eccentric, including ''Delhi does not have curfews, which means you can work and play past bedtime."
Highlighting some of the Delhi-based start-ups that did well in comparison to some Bengaluru-based ones, the website claimed, "We admit, AAP is the only known failed start-up from Delhi." Alok Jain, chief marketing officer, Zomato, said on the website, "Delhi is the reality check to Bengaluru's one-sided view of the Indian tech ecosystem." The ad further claimed that the other reason that would lure people into taking up a job at its Delhi office was the wider roads, "which means you spend less time on the road and more time on the right things - work and family."
This didn't go well with Indian netizens, especially the residents of Bengaluru. Users held this as an extremely irresponsible campaign from a well-known company. Some even termed it a cheap attempt at marketing that put cities against each other.
Most users termed it a lame attempt and some even promised on social media that they would delete the Zomato app from their devices and never use the service. Others warned Zomato that they would lose users to competitors like FoodPanda.
Jessie Paul, marketing expert and CEO of Paul Writer Strategic Advisory, a marketing advisory firm, says, "My once unquestioning love of the brand has been damaged. I started using the app without knowing anything about Zomato's corporate values and frankly, it should have stayed that way."
The After Effect
The company soon reacted and put up an apology note on the same page on which it had posted the job advert (http://www.zomato.com/techcapital). In its apology, the company said that its agenda here was to attract some great tech talent for Zomato, and nothing else. "We thought that a little humour never hurt anyone, but turns out we were wrong and that we might have overstepped a line or two. We have absolutely nothing against Bengaluru or its amazing people. After all, if Bengaluru didn't have such an awesome bunch of techies, we'd never have run this campaign. Just to clear the air, we meant no harm and never intended to hurt anyone's feelings. So all we want to say is, we're sorry," the company said in a post.
Deepinder Goyal, CEO of Zomato, then came up with further clarifications on the entire episode. "The last 24 hours have been eventful for us, to say the least. We made one elementary mistake with this campaign - we took the ability to laugh at ourselves for granted. It hurt some feelings, and we are truly sorry for that," he noted.
Since the focus of the campaign has shifted a few hundred miles, Goyal clarified a few things. "The suggestions that we're trying to create a racial divide in the country, or that we have anything against people from any part of the country, were disappointing. We were absolutely taken aback by people reacting with rape and crime posts; that was completely uncalled for. We admit we got the campaign wrong this time, but to those who gave it a racist, rapist or criminal tone - we are sorry, we are not with you. All said and done, we now know that campaigns like this one probably need more than five opinions before going live. And even though we've been getting some great applications, we've pulled the campaign down in the hope that it'll put an end to the confusion," Goyal said in a company blog, terming themselves as crazy, not stupid (http://www.zomato.com/journal/were-crazy-not-stupid).
Bad Publicity is Good?
Some opinionated people on social media were of the view that Zomato got exactly what it wanted from the campaign. Its objective was to spread the word around and it was successful in that. However, in garnering some mileage for the brand, it looks like Zomato has incurred a dent in its brand image.
They got specific and against too many people at the same time and if you do that someone or other is bound to react," Parmar says.
He adds that though Goyal's response was honest, for a company which typically understands social media, the response should have been quicker, maybe within 12 hours.
However, criticising Goyal's response, Parmar says that if they (Zomato) are being unapologetic about this entire thing, then why blur the post. "Either way you like a brand which stands by what it believes-say sorry and remove it or say what you did and don't blur the post," he adds.
"I think the lesson which any brand can clearly draw is to have a crisis management team in place which responds quicker. It may seem a waste of money in normal scenarios but overnight, their rating on Google Play store fell from 4.5 to 4.3 with lots of negative responses, so an investment there is essential today," Parmar opines.