Today, I relay a rather macabre story involving a hamster named Ashley, and the way in which her untimely death provided yet another reminder of why generating, tracking, and managing word of mouth/earned media is a 2013 marketing imperative.
Ashley joined our family several months ago. She was my daughter Cecelia’s first official pet. We bought her an elaborate cage with a wheel in which she ran furiously every evening just around midnight; we told stories about her and took photos with her. We fed her strawberries. Much to my surprise, we fully embraced Ashley as a part of our little family.
Around Thanksgiving, Ashley disappeared. If you’ve ever taken vermin on as a family pet, you’re aware of their unique ability to squeeze through spaces no larger than the width of an envelope. Despite our desperate attempts to lure her back with strawberry and sunflower seeds, she was never to return. One evening, a few days later, we awoke in the middle of the night to the sound of unremitting scratching inside our heating ducts. The following day, the scratching ceased, and we knew we had to do the inevitable. We called Joe, of a local duct-cleaning franchise (he was, incidentally, recommended by several friends).
Joe arrived with an impressive collection of duct-cleaning equipment and a frown that seemed to say, “This can’t be easy.” Joe worked like a man on a mission for three hours, talking to my daughter about the untimely death of her beloved hamster, relating stories of his own childhood pets, and alleviating the stress that would inevitably result from the sound of something larger than a speck of dust being sucked up into his super-powered vacuum. My kids and I, fortunately, did not hear Ashley’s final exit from this world, but Joe assured us that Ashley was now in a better place (I believe he referred to it as the place where Ashley’s wheel “never stopped spinning”). When Joe left, I wanted to embrace him and ask him to stay for dinner. Joe was professional, kind, and extremely good at his job. Immediately, I opened my laptop and searched for his company’s website to wax poetic about Joe’s finesse and customer service skills.
Sadly, his company overlooked what would have been a simple way to publicly thank them for taking care of one of the most objectionable tasks I can fathom. I didn’t give up. I called the company (and waited on hold for 10 minutes), to tell a customer service representative who had no idea who Joe was, and worse, no idea about whom to contact to pass on my gratitude. I would have publicly recommended this company to every person I knew or did not know – but alas, there was no repository for such testimonials.
Brands, the time is now. People want to talk. They want to share. Consumers have infinite options. Why would any brand not empower their customers to endorse their products and services easily, quickly, and transparently?
I will still recommend Joe’s company if asked, but the bottom line is that they lost an opportunity to tell hundreds of consumers looking for an empathetic, but highly skilled duct cleaning company, that their company and their employees are the best.
Brands can no longer compete without earned media and WOMM. Brands need a social marketing platform that makes it simple to engage and empower their brand advocates in the right place at the right time…..every time.
RIP, Ashley. And thank you, Joe, for doing what you did, so well.