If you work at a large company or brand thereâ€™s a pretty good chance you have a Facebook group. Perhaps it was started by someone at your company. Chances are it wasnâ€™t.
In the vast majority of cases, these groups are positive and simply serve as connecting points for people who like your brand. Most arenâ€™t hurting the brands they talk about. Thatâ€™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.
Letâ€™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 weâ€™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 â€œDamn Right, Your Dad Drank It,â€ 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 Globalâ€™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:
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
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 itâ€™s most loyal customers on Facebook.
The key learning from this experience was that you can protect your copyrights and/or your companyâ€™s high standards of responsibilities without upsetting the brand enthusiasts. To accomplish this, you should:
- Donâ€™t assume the offending party intended to take advantage of or violate your brand.
- Be open and honest in your communications.
- Be clear about what you are asking and why.
- Do NOT threaten. Instead, offer fair alternatives that continue to serve your customers.
- Be prepared to act if the offending party responds negatively.
- 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 â€“ and was well within its rights and, frankly, expectations â€“ 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.