While the world are showing great empathy and support for Japan, Japan disaster becomes a marketing vehicle for companies; but, it backfired for some campaigns which were not thoughtful.
Lesson 1: Help with What You Are Good At
Google set up a people finder internet service after earthquake hit Japan. Google’s strength is in search and this tool no doubt helps emphasize that and is probably better than financial support.
Lesson 2: Help Immediately & Help People Be Able to Help Easily
Starbucks Japan, in partnership with American Red Cross and Japan Red Cross, committed support and funding to the relief effort. And, it donates ¥100 million (about USD$1.2 million) to aid immediate humanitarian and relief efforts.
Starbucks would also match employee donations to the Red Cross or other emergency relief organizations. And, it makes it easier for people to help by enabling its customers donate through their local Starbucks stores in the U.S., Canada, the U.K., Ireland, Germany and France.
All starbucks did were simple but impactful.
Lesson 3: Be Thoughtful in How You Help
Last weekend, Microsoft launched a social media campaign linked to Japan disaster events. One tweet blasted to nearly 100,000 Twitter followers sparked a backlash from consumers:
How you can #SupportJapan – http://binged.it/fEh7iT. For every retweet, @bing will give $1 to Japan quake victims, up to $100K.
It didn’t take long before hundreds started to criticize Bing’s action:
@jspwilliams: Dear Microsoft, that’s not how it works, you’re supposed to do something good first, then you get good publicity from it. #fuckyoubing
@TerenceAaron: Soon the word bing will become a verb for exploiting a disaster. #fuckyoubing
After seven hours, Microsoft apologized via a tweet and donated $100K. So in this whole event, Microsoft got a bad reputation for Bing (and itself) and “lost” $100K (how many will perceive that as donation?).
It’s not a perfect world; we can’t expect all businesses to 100% sincerely help those unfortunately people in a disaster event like Japan quake. But for events like this, companies need to be extra thoughtful even if all a company thinks about is to help other than taking advantage.
Companies need be reminded from Bing’s lesson that social media makes them much more vulnerable to public criticism.