Is Twitter or Facebook the Ultimate Focus Group? 7

Stuart Elliot wrote a great piece for the New York Times on Monday, which looked at Tropicana’s missteps with re-branding. After introducing new branding and design into its packaging of Tropicana orange juice in January, PepsiCo caved into public displeasure around its new branding, and is now bringing back its previous branding (Oranges look good; orange juice looks gross – as Dan Frommer Tweeted and summed up nicely).

However, Elliot made a more interesting point by drawing parallels between this Tropicana’s latest incident and what Facebook and Motrin went through recently with consumer uprisings.

(Tropicana’s now defunct orange juice branding)

Elliot then quoted HARO’s Peter Shankman within the article as saying:

“There will always be people complaining, and always be people complaining about the complainers. But this makes it easier to put us together. Twitter is the ultimate focus group. I can post something and in a minute get feedback from 700 people around the world, giving me their real opinions.”

To his credit, Peter made a very good point. There has always been, and there will always be people complaining about the actions of companies. However, the adoption of communication technologies like Facebook and Twitter, now allows consumers to really get their voice heard (both by the media and the company). Not just as one individual, but as as a powerful group of consumers, who can garner real leverage over the corporations that they are addressing.

With so many corporations adopting and embracing the use of these technologies (Zuckerberg created it for crying out loud) for building and listening to their brand perception , it amazes me how they aren’t able to take advantage of them. Facebook, for one, prides itself on being a democratic community (look at its proposed bill of rights), but somehow it always manages to act before listening to the feedback of its users. Newsfeeds, Beacon and now this.

The same goes for Motrin. They decided they wanted to launch a “viral” video, but didn’t bother gauging what feedback for that video may be virally may be before launching it.

Could Tropicana have avoided this $35 million misstep by using Facebook or Twitter? Well, the company isn’t clueless when it comes to new media. Just take a look back at their Orange America Twitter campaign in November. But could the company have used that foray into social media and micro-blogging to create a real brand following on Twitter? From what I’ve found, they don’t even have a Twitter handle. They definitely don’t run @Tropicana.

If they had taken the time to build off of Orange America, they could have created a real following of really passionate Tropicana drinkers (Yes, re: Stuart’s headline they do exist). They could have observed what was being said about the brand and more importantly they could have created dialogue around a “potential” re-branding. Maybe even implemented feedback into their plans, or stopped them altogether.

If social media has taught me one thing, it’s that the real wisdom, comes from the wisdom of the crowds. Especially when it comes to marketing.

Just like PR, branding and design need to evolve in order to integrate social media feedback into their campaigns. In fact, our newly created sister organization Two Martinis, which launched this week, plans to assist corporations in doing just that.

Aaron Hughes, a colleague of mine under the W2 umbrella and SVP at Two Martinis, believes that social media analytics and measurement are the key to making the most effective use of a client’s money – when it comes to branding and design.

He also believes that focus groups are too “aided” and “guided” to provide a true sense of customer perception. I believe he’s right.

If only more corporations could understand that the ultimate focus group, is now only a click away. Whether that’s Twitter or Facebook, is still up for debate.

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