Nakakaoffend! On Nikon’s Socially Awkward Moment
October 8, 2011 6 Comments
We bit our lips; she looked out the window
Rolling tiny balls of napkin paper
I played a quick game of chess with the salt and pepper shaker
And I could see clearly, an indelible line was drawn
Between what was good, what just slipped out and what went wrong
The phenomenon that John Mayer so eloquently describes can be summed up in three words by this internet generation: that awkward moment. Sometimes we crack that inappropriate joke, mistake someone for pregnant when in fact she just gained a few extra pounds, or let out a secret to a person who wasn’t supposed to be in on it. I myself made a similar mistake a day or two ago (but that’s not for this blog). Tao lang (we’re only human), we always say. But what if it’s a brand, and not a human who does it?
Brad Geiser of GeiserMaclang—in one of his seminars I was fortunate enough to attend—described two different spheres: the social and the commercial. Traditionally, these two don’t mix. But with social marketing, brands, who used to be limited to the commercial sphere, are now moving into our social circles. One main way of doing this online is through interactive Facebook pages. We all know the drill—you like a page, and moderators post status updates, polls, and other fun things meant to draw responses from you and the other fans of the page. The thing is, these brands are actually quite socially awkward. They’ve been used to traditional PR, advertising, and marketing for so long, that they feel a little lost when it comes to human interaction.
Nikon’s socially awkard moment happened recently, when their site moderator posted this status:
That’s when the bad stuff hit the fan. As of today, the post has 4,224 comments and 1,850 shares. The reactions are mixed, but for the most (and the earlier) part, a lot of fans—most of whom were professional photographers—were upset and offended by the post. Some people even went as far as saying they would boycott Nikon for Canon and made it into a war-of-the-brands kind of thing.
That same day they responded with this apology, which appeased most of the page’s audience:
The mistake that Nikon made here was its lack of understanding of its audience. Most photographers, especially the passionate and the professionals, feel that good photography depends on the photographer’s eye, and not on the camera, or any other equipment. In fact, some are even annoyed at amateurs who feel as if they’re pros because they can afford high-end cameras. And as we’ve learned, understanding the audience—their attitudes, their beliefs, and their needs—is essential to any PR or social media move. Nikon’s intention of starting a discussion thread on lenses ended up being a rant thread on Nikon’s blunder.
Just like us, who can be so insensitive sometimes, Nikon slipped up a little. However, they were able to make ammends by not deleting or making excuses* for the offensive post, but simply by apologizing sincerely for it. And people accepted it, because that’s what we do when people apologize. People actually are willing to treat brands like they do other people. I think that this became a learning experience to Nikon, and has brought it one step farther away from being socially awkward.