This post is inspired by the lawsuit filed by Benihana Kuwait against the author of one of the most popular Kuwaiti blogs for an objective review they did not appreciate.
In my previous job, working in the International Sales Department, our main objective was to get new agents across the world to represent our brand and supporting them through thick and thin with Marketing Materials ranging from catalogs, brochures, photos, samples, emailer templates, templates, microsites… And that was not an easy job. Many a time clients would come to us directly from countries where we already had agents because they felt that we could service them better, more efficiently, that we had more know how, or simply because the agent was rude, unprofessional, unethical… And I can imagine how much more pressures you have for controlling standards and ensuring brand integrity in the B2C world, from making sure your outlets correspond to certain standards of look, feel, smell & sound, to a unified experience and service levels… especially if you have franchised your brand and no longer hold the remote control, only having access and being able to voice concerns on matters that are distinctly outlined in that one franchising agreement. Whilst on the other hand the franchisee, has the golden key and has the ability to drive your name into a wall at any time.
Well guess what, with the world wide web, your reputation is not only threatened in that one location, worse come to worse, one slip up can cause a global ripple effect damaging all of your brand’s properties.
So today brands playing internationally also have to develop clear branding and marketing strategies for managing their digital identity and reciprocate those experiences into clear guidelines and strict policies with lots of case studies and canned responses for their partners to follow worldwide, otherwise, you’ll have another Benihana Kuwait nightmare on your hands. And well of course, have a clear cut crisis management plan.
I feel so sorry for Benihana New York and can imagine the nightmare they are going through at the moment unable to control anything and trying to explain to their partners how much damage they have done and convince them to change course of action. For all of you other brands out there, this is not an excuse for you to get scared of the online world and run away, it is just one more proof that you should be online, listen, monitor and engage in a structured way respecting the community that constitutes a large portion of your target audience and learn from cases such as these.
For more marketing perspective also check @youmny’s post at Marketing in Lebanon blog – Benihana Kuwait, the art of creating a PR crisis. You can also check what Lebanese bloggers had to say on this.
Disclaimer: 24am is a blog that I have personally been following for a long while and recommend for all of you to follow due to the amazing quality of content it has and the objectivity of its authors.