Yesterday, Myntra's football-themed poster was removed from FB after it angered netizens. In the digital age, public opinion moulds media planning as much as brand strategy.
One of the latest digital ads from Myntra's End Of Reason Sale (EORS) urged shoppers not to be like Germany and netizens on social media did not take it well. The banner ad copy read - THIS IS THE 2nd TIME GERMANY WENT TO RUSSIA UNPREPARED, DON'T BE GERMANY. The visual depicted the banner being displayed by Mexican football fans and all of this came after Germany's defeat at the group stage match versus Mexico.
However, it was the German's first so-called 'unprepared' trip to Russia that left Facebook natives sore. It did not take long for the brand's page-followers to ascertain that the ad was referring to a World War II incident when Nazi-led Germany made a failed attempt at taking over the Western Soviet Union. While some pointed out the historical reference, others lashed out at Myntra for holding a prejudice against a nation and mocking them with a wartime consequence. There were also threats to shun the brand altogether.
We spotted the ad on Myntra's official Facebook page sometime around noon. A few hours later, as the backlash gathered steam in the comments section, the ad vanished from the fashion website's page leaving only an inert - link expired - prompt.
We at afaqs! approached Myntra to hear their side of the story and to confirm if it really was the followers' backlash that prompted them to pull down the ad.
"It was a fun post, intended as brief amusement for FIFA fans. We often look at topical themes to engage with our audiences with a hint of humour and this particular post was not any different. These posts are set to expire after a fixed period of time as they lose their relevance beyond a certain time," said a Myntra spokesperson in an official statement.
However, until Myntra cleared the air, it did look like social media reactions did affect the brand's digital media planning.
When it comes down to whether or not social media flak does, in fact, dictate media plans, we asked the experts:-
Gopa Kumar, executive vice president, Isobar India, points out, "In this day and age, when anything can become an issue or get caught up on and then become an issue or even when a non-issue becomes issue, brands need to be careful and tread a very thin line of what is acceptable and what is not. While there is neither right nor wrong in the same, it's about the brand and what it stands for; but when issues snowball into a controversy then all efforts are centred around containing the issue rather than focusing on the brand. Hence, it's imperative that brands be careful. It's not impacting media planning in any big way. It's just that all filters need to be checked before we start planning for any campaign and where brands need to be clear with regards to what extent they would want to go on issues which are kind of tricky."
Over the issue of speculating on social media reaction during planning, Kumar says, "In this day and age, speculation is unwarranted and not desired. It is better to go with facts and also, one can predict trends and then plan accordingly."
Tanvi Malik, co-founder of Faballey, a woman's shopping website, gives us a mixed view on the issue. Malik still firmly maintains that Brands must be extra careful when treading on sensitive grounds.
"I would partially agree and definitely not disagree at all because public opinion can sway brand perception in the stage that we live in right now. Political correctness is now more important than it has ever been. There are many hot topic issues like women empowerment, political stances, religious and regional sentiments. It is happening throughout the world. Brands need to tread smartly and carefully while keeping political correctness in mind before putting anything across." Malik says.
Over the issue of social media flak influencing media planning, Malik opines, "It is actually a healthy practice as brands generally tend to put forth what they think consumers want. It's the era of listening and reacting and also responding and interacting with consumers in real-time. So, absolutely, any communication which brings the brand and the consumers closer is good."
"We do think of consequences. Actually, while we sit in and plan brand campaigns and our communication plan, we do think of consequences and if we are offensive to the people we are reaching out to. But sometimes mistakes happen. Some amount of consequence and crisis planning is not going to hurt. Things can be done so that brands are more prepared to handle any kind of public backlash. As a women's wear brand, we at Faballey have also adopted a certain level of consciousness about what communication we put out," Malik adds.
Raghav Subramanian, from IPG Mediabrands, Interpublic Group's media management network, disagrees that public opinion influences media planning more than brand strategy.
"Media planning is only a tool to deliver the brand strategy. While in the digital era, media planning is real-time and can be changed according to public opinion, the larger impact will always be on the brand. Every brand can be strong and at the same time vulnerable in the social media space. We know several brands (corporate or individual) are made or dissed on social media, which I think is attributed to brand strategies rather than media planning," Subramanian says.
However, he maintains that media planning has to be a lot more nimble in today's digital era. "Real-time monitoring of social media has empowered media planning to make course-corrections on the go. Also, social media today has become a significant input for media planning. And so, most importantly, investment on data science and tools has become imperative for better media planning," Subramanian maintains.
In his take on forecasting for social media reaction during media planning, Subramanian has this to say, "Data and tools have been powerful engines in making digital marketing predictive. But when it comes to social media, large setups for clients are able to steer a certain response and influence through strong social monitoring and Online Reputation Management (ORM), but most other medium-to-small setups remain reactive rather than proactive. "
Nishit Vora, account director, FoxyMoron, shares, "Being linear and goal-oriented in nature, the over-all brand strategy is not gravely impacted by social media's influence. However, it can be moulded to adapt to currents trends and topics. A media push definitely amplifies the brand's foray into trending conversations to gain immediate traction but also becomes a matter of judgment if the consumers believe it is against the brand's overall positioning."
"Brands need to be mindful of consumer sentiment; regardless of medium. However, it may not always be easy to predict consumer reaction. Knowing your consumer deep and aligning your desired brand values to all forms of communication keeps a brand insulated from potential risks. Of course, in an agile business environment, brands could get things wrong. Listening and agile actions become key. A framework of authenticity, acknowledgement and apologies as necessary, quick learning and moving on are important. Consumers will forgive you if authenticity and sincerity is demonstrated via actions," says Chandramohan Mehra, CMO Bajaj Allianz Life Insurance and General Insurance.