The dust has settled from the Ragu Hates Dads incident from a few weeks back. I’m sure it could have been worse had C.C. Chapman not been resolved to just shrug it off. Several others chapped by the incident, including me, voiced some lingering concerns, but all-in-all it wasn’t an overly egregious violation of consumer trust. Just a minor wrinkling of the nose in the grand scheme of things.

Ragu’s only real response to the incident was defensive and even accusatory of those who called foul on their behavior. It was posted on MediaPost, which requires users to register to comment. They’ve claimed to respond to the situation otherwise, but a similar accusatory comment on Custom Scoop was all I could find. My comment, posted on Ragu’s Facebook wall, was never responded to. Response errors aside, the reaction from the social media community gave me pause.

Ragu - Das Original

Image by Toni Birrer via Flickr

Probably for the first time in social media’s short history, we saw people in the social media space — bloggers, influencers and so on — who pushed back against the vocal outcries claiming Ragu did nothing wrong and C.C., myself and others like us were blowing it all out of proportion.

Doug Karr jumped on it first, sarcastically poking fun at those upset, acting like being a daddy blogger that cooks is such a downtrodden segment of society. Chip Griffin disagreed with C.C.’s criticisms. Arik Hanson said it was time to start giving brands a break, even.

While I realize my reaction to the Ragu incident slightly biases me here, after a bit of thought, I think its safe to say had this incident happened two years ago, no one would have reacted in Ragu’s defense. This is both good and bad. It’s good in that we are gut-checking ourselves as consumers and realizing that hating for hating’s sake is never a good thing. It’s easy to whine about big brand behavior in the social media space. If they don’t respond exactly how we want them to, we can vent and bitch and have our virtual temper tantrums in hopes they’ll reconsider.

Don’t think for a minute the reason I’ve taken my frustrations with my now former web hosting company and my now former business banker isn’t because I hope for a more accommodating response than I’d received offline. The effect we’ve learned from holding brands accountable — even when our accountability is unreasonable — is that we have the power. The more vocal we are on social channels, the more urgent the brand makes responding to us. Squeaky wheel gets the grease.

It’s a good thing that some of us are starting to grow weary of brand attacks.

But it’s also a bad thing that when one person, or several people, are upset at a brand for doing or saying something that bothers or even offends them, that others choose to minimize or even ridicule their opinions. We’re walking a fine line when we see someone posing a complaint or reaction to something a company did in the social space and we react with ridicule.

Understand that Doug Karr’s reaction was tongue in cheek. I’m not pointing at him, Chip or Arik and saying they offended me in their responses. I’m just hoping that we don’t become so tired of people complaining about brands that we silence the voices that do.

Social media has shifted marketplace control to the consumers. There are plenty of brand-side marketers that are even thankful for that shift. (Though there are plenty that are still uncomfortable with it.) Let’s not let the pendulum swing so far back that brands get to run amok of our communications channels again.

If they did, we’d have a hard time finding a new playground.

For more of my Ragu reaction, which was more about their poor taste in humor and less about offending dads, check out my Two On Two with Aaron Perlut on Forbes.com.

Enhanced by Zemanta
Did you enjoy this blog post? If so, then why not:Leave Comment Below | Subscribe To This Blog | Sign Up For Our Newsletter |

About Jason Falls

Jason Falls

Jason Falls 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 Elasticity, one of the world's most innovative digital marketing and public relations firms. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).

Other posts by

Comments & Reactions

Comments Policy

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://dannybrown.me Danny Brown

    I recall seeing people defend Motrin and United Airlines too, mate. I don’t think it’s a new phenomenon – more that people are actually questioning whether the complainer has a valid point or even taking it too far.

    Brands will always be questioned – it’s the nature of the beast. But brands will also be protected, if a complainer is seen as bullying. Interesting times ahead. 

    • http://chipgriffin.com Chip Griffin

      You’re right about Motrin and United — and I was one of those defending them. In fact, I have been consistent in raising questions about the way in which social media firestorms often spin out of control in unproductive, anti-brand ways. More important, I think that we as social media enthusiasts need to encourage brand participation, not do things that frighten them off from participating.

      Ultimately, dialogue is a two-way street. We need to be able to have discussions with brands about their mistakes in a calm, rational way and not jump to conclusions about their motives or allege ignorance.

      The best way to deal with a brand that may have made a mistake is to ask a question, preferably privately but even publicly is OK. It’s the teeth-gnashing, fist-pounding, hyperbolic responses that end the conversation before it can even begin.

      • http://dannybrown.me Danny Brown

        Hey there Chip,

        Completely agree, mate – and if the dialogue isn’t being returned (especially to correct erroneous claims or statements), then a brand does probably deserve to be called out.

        But the sniping when a brand does respond gets tiresome. Fast.

        Cheers!

  • http://dannybrown.me Danny Brown

    I recall seeing people defend Motrin and United Airlines too, mate. I don’t think it’s a new phenomenon – more that people are actually questioning whether the complainer has a valid point or even taking it too far.

    Brands will always be questioned – it’s the nature of the beast. But brands will also be protected, if a complainer is seen as bullying. Interesting times ahead. 

    • http://chipgriffin.com Chip Griffin

      You’re right about Motrin and United — and I was one of those defending them. In fact, I have been consistent in raising questions about the way in which social media firestorms often spin out of control in unproductive, anti-brand ways. More important, I think that we as social media enthusiasts need to encourage brand participation, not do things that frighten them off from participating.

      Ultimately, dialogue is a two-way street. We need to be able to have discussions with brands about their mistakes in a calm, rational way and not jump to conclusions about their motives or allege ignorance.

      The best way to deal with a brand that may have made a mistake is to ask a question, preferably privately but even publicly is OK. It’s the teeth-gnashing, fist-pounding, hyperbolic responses that end the conversation before it can even begin.

      • http://dannybrown.me Danny Brown

        Hey there Chip,

        Completely agree, mate – and if the dialogue isn’t being returned (especially to correct erroneous claims or statements), then a brand does probably deserve to be called out.

        But the sniping when a brand does respond gets tiresome. Fast.

        Cheers!

  • http://tjcnyc.wordpress.com Tom Cunniff

    Jason, you hit the nail on the head: “The effect we’ve learned from holding brands accountable — even when our accountability is unreasonable — is that we have the power.”

    Obviously, of course, consumers have always had the ultimate power: they can choose not to buy a brand they dislike. And they have always had the power to organize a larger boycott.

    What’s different now is that they can whip up a social media storm that can hurt a brand in a bigger way for a longer time — and they can do it without much effort.

    This means ganging up on a brand for a slip-up is no longer a trivial thing. If we wouldn’t break a store window at our local grocery store because the store did something wrong, should we be so quick to do the virtual version of that?

    I understand that there’s a visceral thrill to picking up our pitchforks and torches and expressing our righteous anger at the powerful. But once we know it has the power to actually hurt someone’s business, there’s a responsibility to use that power wisely.

    There’s a difference between a consumer standing up for him or herself and being a virtual bully.

    P.S. I don’t fault C.C. Chapman for expressing his opinion. What troubles me is when a crowd instantly assembles to flex their social media muscles just because they can.

  • http://tjcnyc.wordpress.com Tom Cunniff

    Jason, you hit the nail on the head: “The effect we’ve learned from holding brands accountable — even when our accountability is unreasonable — is that we have the power.”

    Obviously, of course, consumers have always had the ultimate power: they can choose not to buy a brand they dislike. And they have always had the power to organize a larger boycott.

    What’s different now is that they can whip up a social media storm that can hurt a brand in a bigger way for a longer time — and they can do it without much effort.

    This means ganging up on a brand for a slip-up is no longer a trivial thing. If we wouldn’t break a store window at our local grocery store because the store did something wrong, should we be so quick to do the virtual version of that?

    I understand that there’s a visceral thrill to picking up our pitchforks and torches and expressing our righteous anger at the powerful. But once we know it has the power to actually hurt someone’s business, there’s a responsibility to use that power wisely.

    There’s a difference between a consumer standing up for him or herself and being a virtual bully.

    P.S. I don’t fault C.C. Chapman for expressing his opinion. What troubles me is when a crowd instantly assembles to flex their social media muscles just because they can.

  • http://bellesouth.blogspot.com bellesouth

    I think it is very important to start a dialogue with brands. We influencers are consumers, too. Last year I met with a lot of backlash for posting on Sutter Home’s Facebook page about how inappropriate it was for the company to engage in breast-cancer-awareness marketing… since alcohol has been directly linked to cancer. People all over the page jumped at me for calling them out, and although I have publicly and objectively criticized a number of brands for engaging in deceptive cause marketing, I have yet to see a company respond to me in appreciation of my concerns.
     
    Most of my audience is female. I promise them every day that I am not going to steer them toward a product or campaign I wouldn’t support in my everyday life. I signed the Blog With Integrity pledge. I always thought that as influencers, we were supposed to help shape the brand, not the other way around.
     
    Brand attacks? No. Brand dialogue? Absolutely. Consumers have more power than ever now. Those of us who are fortunate enough to tack on the title of “influencer” should exhibit honesty, integrity and objectivity rather than blindly supporting brands.

  • http://bellesouth.blogspot.com bellesouth

    I think it is very important to start a dialogue with brands. We influencers are consumers, too. Last year I met with a lot of backlash for posting on Sutter Home’s Facebook page about how inappropriate it was for the company to engage in breast-cancer-awareness marketing… since alcohol has been directly linked to cancer. People all over the page jumped at me for calling them out, and although I have publicly and objectively criticized a number of brands for engaging in deceptive cause marketing, I have yet to see a company respond to me in appreciation of my concerns.
     
    Most of my audience is female. I promise them every day that I am not going to steer them toward a product or campaign I wouldn’t support in my everyday life. I signed the Blog With Integrity pledge. I always thought that as influencers, we were supposed to help shape the brand, not the other way around.
     
    Brand attacks? No. Brand dialogue? Absolutely. Consumers have more power than ever now. Those of us who are fortunate enough to tack on the title of “influencer” should exhibit honesty, integrity and objectivity rather than blindly supporting brands.

  • http://thefuturebuzz.com AdamSinger

    Wow, Ragu’s response on MediaPost was terrible …I’d never work for a team like that, very offputting.

  • http://thefuturebuzz.com AdamSinger

    Wow, Ragu’s response on MediaPost was terrible …I’d never work for a team like that, very offputting.

  • Saradoug10

    I think the incident with Ragu emphasizes the control that consumers have over brands and the view of particular brands in the public eye. As consumers, we are ultimately responsible for the uprising or downfall of brands based upon our reactions to certain events involving a brand or the way we communicate the value of the brand to other consumers. I do believe consumers have the right to voice their opinion about particular brands to the public via social media outlets like blogging. However, as consumers I also think we need to respect the differing opinions of other consumers. Without differing opinions, brands would never alter their values or benefits to consumers.

  • Saradoug10

    I think the incident with Ragu emphasizes the control that consumers have over brands and the view of particular brands in the public eye. As consumers, we are ultimately responsible for the uprising or downfall of brands based upon our reactions to certain events involving a brand or the way we communicate the value of the brand to other consumers. I do believe consumers have the right to voice their opinion about particular brands to the public via social media outlets like blogging. However, as consumers I also think we need to respect the differing opinions of other consumers. Without differing opinions, brands would never alter their values or benefits to consumers.

  • http://rmeray.com Ryan Meray

    Ragu deserved all the hate they got and then some. From conception, execution, to response, they failed on every count. As someone who’s not “in” marketing nor a Dad, I still saw the whole debacle and instantly thought you, CC, and others pointing out their stupidity were 100% in the right.

  • http://rmeray.com Ryan Meray

    Ragu deserved all the hate they got and then some. From conception, execution, to response, they failed on every count. As someone who’s not “in” marketing nor a Dad, I still saw the whole debacle and instantly thought you, CC, and others pointing out their stupidity were 100% in the right.

  • http://www.bolderimage.com D T

    Playing off of Danny’s comment – I think society is more likely getting sick of complainers. Of course, often times complains are valid (I’m not implying the Ragu situation was ok, I always loved when my dad cooked!), but it has also turned into an easy way to get something from the company. 

  • http://www.bolderimage.com D T

    Playing off of Danny’s comment – I think society is more likely getting sick of complainers. Of course, often times complains are valid (I’m not implying the Ragu situation was ok, I always loved when my dad cooked!), but it has also turned into an easy way to get something from the company. 

  • http://www.tasmijn.nl/ Bas

    Hi Jason,

    I have to agree with the other commenters that state that people are just tired with other people complaining. At the moment, the world is depressing enough as it is.. it’s no wonder that we see regimes overthrown and world-wide occupy movements.

    But there’s also this other thing: social media, nor the internet as such, does not give power to the customer. At all. Look back a year ago, Nestlé made a terrible mess online. The entire online social media marketing scene and what not burned Nestlé to the ground. But only 6 months later, the brand perception of KitKat was stronger than it was right after the incidents on Facebook.

    And let’s not forget BP, they’ve been held publically responsible for the deaths of millions of animals and the destruction of large parts of the environment… does that decrease their sales? The line at our local BP station tells me not.

    The only thing social media has done for consumers, is deliver corporates more insight in our behaviour and make it easier to buy their shyte ;)

  • http://www.tasmijn.nl/ Bas

    Hi Jason,

    I have to agree with the other commenters that state that people are just tired with other people complaining. At the moment, the world is depressing enough as it is.. it’s no wonder that we see regimes overthrown and world-wide occupy movements.

    But there’s also this other thing: social media, nor the internet as such, does not give power to the customer. At all. Look back a year ago, Nestlé made a terrible mess online. The entire online social media marketing scene and what not burned Nestlé to the ground. But only 6 months later, the brand perception of KitKat was stronger than it was right after the incidents on Facebook.

    And let’s not forget BP, they’ve been held publically responsible for the deaths of millions of animals and the destruction of large parts of the environment… does that decrease their sales? The line at our local BP station tells me not.

    The only thing social media has done for consumers, is deliver corporates more insight in our behaviour and make it easier to buy their shyte ;)

  • http://www.online-business-virtual-assistant.com/ Virtual Business Assistant

    Great post. Social Media is not a platform to deliver sales pitch. It’s not about talking about yourself. Listening to the audience to find out their needs and then responding to them to fulfill those can result in a healthy relationship in between the business and its customers. And Social Media is the right place to practice that.

  • http://www.online-business-virtual-assistant.com/ Virtual Business Assistant

    Great post. Social Media is not a platform to deliver sales pitch. It’s not about talking about yourself. Listening to the audience to find out their needs and then responding to them to fulfill those can result in a healthy relationship in between the business and its customers. And Social Media is the right place to practice that.

  • http://twitter.com/IdentifyBI Kevin Hudson

    Brilliant post. First blog post i’ve read looking at social consumer power from this point of view. I completely agree that consumers have a good thing here with social media putting the power in their hands….the hands that can just as easily pass the power back to the brands, giving them the opportunity and freedom to turn social sites into their new shouting platforms (some people call these shouting platforms TVs and advertising boards).

  • http://twitter.com/IdentifyBI Kevin Hudson

    Brilliant post. First blog post i’ve read looking at social consumer power from this point of view. I completely agree that consumers have a good thing here with social media putting the power in their hands….the hands that can just as easily pass the power back to the brands, giving them the opportunity and freedom to turn social sites into their new shouting platforms (some people call these shouting platforms TVs and advertising boards).

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Caroline-Lewis/100003082757615 Caroline Lewis

    Hi everyone!
    How was your Halloween?
    http://freemkvplayer.net/mkv file player

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Caroline-Lewis/100003082757615 Caroline Lewis

    Hi everyone!
    How was your Halloween?
    http://freemkvplayer.net/mkv file player

  • http://www.socialmarketingdynamics.com/ Sydney @ Social Dynamics

    People should stop thinking that their opinions matter more than everybody else’s. I hate seeing dismissive attacks on social accounts, especially if they don’t have the ability to be congenial.

  • http://www.socialmarketingdynamics.com/ Sydney @ Social Dynamics

    People should stop thinking that their opinions matter more than everybody else’s. I hate seeing dismissive attacks on social accounts, especially if they don’t have the ability to be congenial.

  • http://twitter.com/buzzquotient buzzquotient

    Social media is a platform to interact with brands and for brands to interact with its customers and followers. With the positive comments, you must expect the negative comments too.

  • http://twitter.com/buzzquotient buzzquotient

    Social media is a platform to interact with brands and for brands to interact with its customers and followers. With the positive comments, you must expect the negative comments too.

  • Pingback: Ragú and the Social Media Woodshed - Tom Cunniff

  • Pingback: Escaping The Sandbox « MindCorp | Newsfeed

  • Pingback: The State And Future Of Social Media Management Solutions « MindCorp | Newsfeed