Have We Grown Weary Of Brand Attacks?

by Jason Falls |

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.

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About the Author

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).