If you work at a large company or brand there’s a pretty good chance you have a Facebook group. Perhaps it was started by someone at your company. Chances are it wasn’t.

Canadian Club's Brand Page on Facebook

Canadian Club's Brand Page On Facebook

In the vast majority of cases, these groups are positive and simply serve as connecting points for people who like your brand. Most aren’t hurting the brands they talk about. That’s not always the case, of course. At their worst, groups are started to express frustration or even hate for a product. At their best, I would guess the vast majority of groups are at least using the logo, product imagery or other brand copyrights without official permission.

Let’s add another layer of complication to the matter and talk about brands in regulated industries. In the beverage/alcohol industry, for instance, companies self-regulate the placement of their advertising and marketing communications to limit access to those of legal purchase age (LPA). If the demographic profile of LPA and above users is under 70 percent (a standard set by an industry-wide agreement), the only way a beverage alcohol brand should participate there, advertising or otherwise, is if the content is guarded by what the industry calls an LPA gateway.

The case study we’ll look at, however, is one involving Canadian Club, which is a Beam Global Spirits & Wine brand. To hold its brands to an even higher standard, Beam Global adopted an industry-leading demographic standard of 75 percent. In order to ensure the content is delivered to a 75 percent legal purchase age audience, Canadian Club content on Facebook is also guarded by an LPA gateway.

Canadian Club has a Facebook brand page and a fun application based on their “Damn Right, Your Dad Drank It,” campaign. However, until recent development fixes, the brand was prohibited from having an official group or setting official events because neither could be guarded from users under the legal purchase age of alcohol. (Facebook has since announced development changes with regard to age gateways on groups and events.)

So when Lawrence Hwang, the Canadian Club account manager at Proximity, a Canadian advertising agency, came across a Canadian Club Fan Page on Facebook he realized a problem: There was no legal purchase age gateway and official brand logos and copyrights were being used, compromising Beam Global’s advertising standards.

Along that same time, a blog post appeared on the Legal Profession Blog which made claims (incorrectly) kids could potentially see Canadian Club advertising on Facebook.

Beam Global, Proximity and even contacts at Facebook moved swiftly to address the matter. Lawrence sent this email within Facebook to the administrator of the group page, an Australian gentleman named Richard:

Hi,

My name is Lawrence Hwang and I am the Account Director on the Canadian Club advertising account.

We saw your Canadian Club Fan Page on Facebook and on behalf of my Client (Beam Global) we would like to thank you for patronage and support of our brand. Nothing makes us happier than our customers appreciating the work we put into both our product and our advertising. As a spirit/wine company there are strict laws and regulations we must adhere to with our advertising (commercials, print ads and online activities) when it comes to those under the legal drinking age (LDA).

Unfortunately your current Fan Page does not filter users by LDA in any region and has been mistaken by some as a page managed by Beam Global and we have received complaints about minors reviewing the content.

We would like to propose a possible solution, which is to invite you, and your members above the legal drinking age, to join our Fan page (located at: http://www.new.facebook.com/CanadianClub)

to be as active as you’d like. In fact we would welcome opportunities to work with you on new campaigns, product ideas and promotions. Your fan page would then be removed from Facebook to avoid any future confusion.

We thank you in advance for your anticipated cooperation. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact me directly to discuss

Thank you,

L

Within a period of about two days, Richard responded with excitement someone from the brand reached out to him, apologies for putting Canadian Club in any questionable light and agreeing to turn the administration of the group over to the brand. Group members were invited to the official brand page and the group was dissolved, consolidating efforts and giving the brand an element of control without upsetting it’s most loyal customers on Facebook.

The key learning from this experience was that you can protect your copyrights and/or your company’s high standards of responsibilities without upsetting the brand enthusiasts. To accomplish this, you should:

  1. Don’t assume the offending party intended to take advantage of or violate your brand.
  2. Be open and honest in your communications.
  3. Be clear about what you are asking and why.
  4. Do NOT threaten. Instead, offer fair alternatives that continue to serve your customers.
  5. Be prepared to act if the offending party responds negatively.
  6. All of these happen while never compromise your responsibility standards

That last lesson was covered by the Canadian Club team, but, fortunately, not needed. Had Richard not responded with such understanding and cooperation, the brand would have been forced – and was well within its rights and, frankly, expectations – to ask Facebook to close the group.

Certainly, this is a singular example. While much can be learned from the case study, each instance of brand interaction with an enthusiast who is violating a copyright, or worse, is very different. Fortunately for Canadian Club, this instance turned out positively. Other brands may not have had the same experiences, particularly those dealing with groups or efforts antithetical to its product or service.

At least now, however, we have something to look at as an example of how to manage risk and constructively engage well-intended brand enthusiasts can work. If you have other examples, or feedback on how this particular one played out, please share in the comments.

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About Jason Falls

Jason Falls

Jason Falls is the founder and chief instigator for Social Media Explorer's blog. He is a leading thinker, speaker and strategist in the world of digital marketing and is co-author of two books, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide To Social Media Marketing and The Rebel's Guide To Email Marketing. By day, he leads digital strategy for CafePress, one of the world's largest online retailers. His opinions are his, not necessarily theirs. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).

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Comments on Social Media Explorer are open to anyone. However, I will remove any comment that is disrespectful and not in the spirit of intelligent discourse. You are welcome to leave links to content relevant to the conversation, but I reserve the right to remove it if I don't see the relevancy. Be nice, have fun. Fair?

  • http://www.patrickokeefe.com iFroggy

    Nice post. Interesting stuff. I have to wonder how Richard was treated after agreeing to what they wanted, though. I'm guessing he doesn't lead the official FB group. Maybe you could secure an interview with him, Jason. Maybe ask him if he's suggested any ideas and how they were received. That might make for a cool follow up to this.

    I think, for this particular situation, this was a good way to handle it, generally speaking. If there wasn't the LDA issue, though, I would be against having the end goal of total and complete irrevocable shut down. Instead, in a similar tone, I'd suggest that it be marked unofficial in title, to prevent any confusion. If the imagery they used was a serious problem, I would refer them to a press page with logos, product images, etc. that we made available for this purpose.

    Again, nice post. Including the actual e-mail adds a lot to it. Good work.

    Just a few days until BWE! :)

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Fair point, Patrick. A follow up should be in the offing. I know CC currently has a positive, open line of communications with the gentleman. This issue actually just happened a month or so ago, so I'll give it some time and follow up then.

  • http://www.budgetpulse.com CraigK

    Great case study. That's happening a lot with bigger named companies as well as celebrities, or so-called celebrities. People are creating unauthorized sites of their favorite celebs and for the most part always glorify them in a positive light. Companies/people should look at this as a positive and act appropriately the the company in this case study.

    Do you know what the terms of were for Richard to hand over the page to the company? Was he compensated in some way?

    Craig
    http://www.budgetpulse.com

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Thanks for asking, Craig. The gentleman wasn't compensated other than with the extreme gratitude of a brand he obviously holds dear. He was happy to volunteer the group and cooperate, which CC was certainly fortunate for. So while there were no “terms” any that may have resulted were his to set.

  • http://reputationbodyguard.com/ reputationbodyguard

    A great post on managing ones reputation well! Trying to work around the situation instead of against it….great boost to their reputation in the end :)

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Thanks for the feedback. All things considered, everyone's reputation came out looking good in this case.

  • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

    Fair point, Patrick. A follow up should be in the offing. I know CC currently has a positive, open line of communications with the gentleman. This issue actually just happened a month or so ago, so I'll give it some time and follow up then.

  • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

    Thanks for asking, Craig. The gentleman wasn't compensated other than with the extreme gratitude of a brand he obviously holds dear. He was happy to volunteer the group and cooperate, which CC was certainly fortunate for. So while there were no “terms” any that may have resulted were his to set.

  • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

    Thanks for the feedback. All things considered, everyone's reputation came out looking good in this case.

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