3157735699_ee9f0ced87Heard a PR client recently utter, “Do we need to start a conversation with each and every person who says something about our brand online? Gosh, that’s going to take a lot of time”. This, after I’ve tried convincing them of the necessity of a formal social media engagement program – the ideas, numbers, plan of action, deliverables et all. That’s ok, I’ll convince them with some great examples of online chatter about their own brand. No sweat.

But, I had an epiphany this morning. Just before brushing. I had the urge to read what’s written on my Colgate toothpaste tube, while brushing. Its like the urge you get to peek into Tweetdeck while working on an important document – same feeling.

And what did I notice? There was actually a sentence that read,

‘For best results squeeze tube from the bottom and flatten as you go up’.

Except for the minor distraction about its possibly unintended dirty meaning, I had an epiphany. A toothpaste is supposed to clean your teeth; remove goo from gums (with the help of that other device, tooth brush); control bad breath…and so on.

So, perhaps, it would have been a lot more appropriate if Colgate (and other toothpaste brands around the world) had actually printed, ‘For best results, brush twice every day and after every meal’.

Isn’t that the ‘best result’ in question? Why bother about existential activities like squeezing the tube, when the objective of using the paste (and the tube, as a result) is completely something else?

Instead, they thought of the most obscene (hey, just a point of view!) and useless sentence which completely misses the point of the purpose of a toothpaste! Fascinating!

Photo courtesy: Tony the Misfit via Flickr.



9 thoughts on “For best results…!

  1. Toothpaste obscenties recognized, I’d like to know how you responded to the client’s question re: the time it will take / does take to reply to online chatter — thanks!

  2. You have a good point with the Colgate anecdote, but I agree with Mary, it seems tangential to the lead in to the article.

    As for responding to each and every person who mentions your company on the internet, I don’t think that’s necessary. Rather, companies to can use social media to take the pulse of how people feel about their brand, and use it as a second voice for their customers. If you happen to see a surge of complaints or concerns about a particular issue, you respond in the most visible way possible. If there is an ongoing conversation topic on Twitter, reply to the topic with your input, or offerings to provide assistance, or look into an issue for people experiencing pain with your company.

    These activities do get noticed. The key to doing it effectively is sincerity. If you are perceived as genuinely concerned, social media users will respond positively, and your use of social media to engage with your customers will be respected. If you are perceived as just trying to perform damage control, you could see some backlash.

    So put your customers first, be genuine, and take on the most important issues you see conversations about in social media. The more you can engage social media, the better, but you have to start somewhere.

  3. Very cool Karthik. And the answer for your client may be “Don’t squeeze the tube – think about the brush” Hundreds of little “hairs” distribute your tooth paste to the teeth – the tube doesn’t do it. And so YOU won’t do all the answers but if you FACILITATE the conversation like the brush – the answer and the conversation is in your community.

    I’ll take the liberty and use that as an example at the Social Media Academy – it is too cool.
    Thanks for sharing it.


  4. It’s important to tell the clients that the conversation will go on with or without their participation. It’s beyond their control. What is not, is the choice to engage and participate.

    So, if we have to stick with the dental analogy … the client can certainly choose not to brush. The decay will go unchecked on it’s own. Squeezing the tube is optional. Brushing is not.

  5. Actually, the analogy was about missing the point…what else does one get in the form of an epiphany at 6 am in the morning…all groggy eyed 🙂

    As for what I responded to the client, its a long story. But yes, its not about answering every single query online – that’s not humanly possible nor is it necessary, in my opinion. Its about choosing who you want to respond and that’s what I proposed we’ll help them – based on reach and influence. I know this is segregating queries, but that’s just one way out – for instance, we found a lot of messages on Orkut for this client (this is India!) and we suggested that we’ll suggest what the client should be responding to, based on basics like the membership count of a community, frequency of posts and the presence of intelligent questions as against one-line, frivolous queries.

    What will also happen is that when these people see the brand responding to them, it’ll create a snowball effect and get us more queries. That’s when I suggested we take the activity proactive as a phase 2, and create an official Orkut community where we could think of unifying such queries so that it becomes easy for us to manage them and it becomes easy for people to find one place to get solutions – there are more than 50 Orkut communities out of India alone for this brand, btw. Its like creating an exclusive toll-free number for help – only, we’re creating one where our customers are already comfortable in.

    But, as Chris rightly says, its about presenting a human face to the brand – being genuinely interested and respond with honesty and empathy.

    Axel and Beth: Great point about the brush! Even without the paste, the brush can do the job quite well, just that we won’t enjoy the routine as much 🙂

    But seriously, Colgate should seriously think of changing this line to something more sensible.

  6. Reminds me of the nasel inhaler (Vicks Sinex) which includes the instructions: Remove top and push up bottom.
    Now that would certainly clear your passages.

    And the Starbucks coffee cups: Caution! May contain hot liquid.

    Are we really getting so dumb we need these kind of kind of instructions? There again, maybe your client experience shows we do.

  7. I do love irony – can’t help but wonder if Colgate will select this string and respond in some way. Will they select out this commentary as a means to engage us further? Clearly it is a group of influencers talking to other influencers using social media – even though it is about how brands should respond to social media chatter, it is also about their brand. How could Colgate use that same real estate on the tube to offer their customers a more meaningful best result? Social media marketers have thrown down the gauntlet – if I were Colgate I’d hold a contest for the best best-results copyblock. The winner gets their line on every Colgate tube, and free Colgate for life or similar.

  8. Excellent thought. In fact, even Colgate’s rival brands (with or without such a line in their tubes) could do this and garner some good social media love! Fabulous opportunity out here!

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