We experience, through them, how the company does or doesn’t respond. We cheer on the wronged. We boo the corporate villains…or herald them if they’re listening and respond to fix the problem.
Here are some of the recent ones I know. And because I know these people…I know the stories they tell are true.
Etta’s mom tells the heart-tugging story of how her daughter Etta was invited to an American Girl store (by a friend) so they could get their dolls’ hair styled. Etta brought a doll from Target and when it was her turn in line, was told by the stylist that her doll "wasn’t real" and she wouldn’t do her hair. To make Etta’s experience even worse, some of the moms in line mocked her for bringing a non-AG doll to the store.
As I write this, there are 394 comments to her post. Most of the commenters were brought to tears (you have to read the post…it really is incredibly well-written and heart breaking.) Many of them were vowing to stop shopping there and several say that they’ve called the store and demanded action.
One commenter even posted a response she got to an e-mail she sent to AG corporate. Google "American girl" Etta and you will be amazed at the number of articles, posts etc. that 12 days after the original post, are now telling the story.
Here’s my question. What if she made up the story? I am not suggesting for one minute that she did. But, I am asking "what if?"
In 12 days. Less than 1,200 words. What damage has been done?
How can/will AG recover? For how long will they be called on to respond and apologize? Will they have to train their staff on how to handle it when a customer brings it up?
We are behind the driver’s wheel of a very powerful medium. Not everyone is going to be ethical. Not everyone is going to care about anyone but themselves. Not everyone will be transparent about their motives.
How will we know?
Thanks to Brett Trout for sharing this story with me, thinking it would appeal to my fascination with branding. As you can see, it did much more than that.