It doesn’t matter how positive a Twitter post is.
You could announce: Hey, we’ve found a cure for cancer!
Someone would reply: You are stealing jobs from healthcare workers! #cureskilljobs.
Then the mob would pile on.
This is the basic fact that Your Taxi failed to understand. The disaster stemmed from other issues. Within the comical meltdown was a lesson for people and marketers.
The Key Thing To Understand About Social Media
At my ad agency, we studied a concept called the retributive nature of customers.
It’s the drive for people to establish equity when they’ve felt wronged, whether it’s throwing a dish back at your partner, or dishing out a bad company review after being fired.
The other day I was browsing Facebook and saw an advertisement for Trident University. I immediately thought: this should be good. I clicked on the comments.
“The classes are terrible.”
“Garbage school with garbage professors”
Yes, Trident is a sketchy name for a school. But responses are like this even for state schools — often by those who didn’t show up for class and are stuck with debt and no degree.
Social media comments skew the dumpster fire largely because humans are proven to be knee-jerk. Only 41% of people read a given article before leaving a comment.
This is partially why Reddit doesn’t allow comments on its advertisements. The added anonymity of usernames brought out new levels of harassment. Reddit's advertisers spoke about this, quite loudly, hence the policy change.
Your Taxi’s Chewbacca Run In
Your Taxi is a huge taxi brand in Australia, with a name that is a fun play on words.
I’m calling Your Taxi.
But I don’t need a taxi?
No! I’m calling a Your Taxi for me!
The brand was in trouble and wanted to elevate awareness to compete with ride-sharing apps. They hired an ad agency that launched a crowdsourcing campaign where people would share their positive experiences to #yourtaxi on Twitter.
Instead, the hashtag became a rallying cry for bitter customers. Stories of harassment, rudeness, and gross cabs, flooded this Twitter hashtag.
“He was the rudest driver I’ve ever met.”
“My driver kept making sexual comments about how good my outfit looked on me.”
“There was rotting food under the seat in front of me.”
Even worse, in the middle of all this, the agency tried to use Australia’s version of Veterans Day to boost their campaign and draw even more attention to the bad-PR magnet… all while including an unfortunate misspelling.
It’s one thing for a marketing campaign to sink and not boost sales. It’s another for a campaign to outright hurt a brand and turn it into an ad for Uber.
Your Taxi was put on the ropes defending their campaign. They spent several days responding to all of the complaints in a typical, wishy-washy PR fashion.
Notably, in the aftermath, Your Taxi said the campaign wasn’t a public relations disaster — but also fired their marketing firm immediately.
Your Taxi ignored two fundamental problems:
- Like most taxis, they weren’t delivering the pricing and customer service of ride-sharing apps.
- They failed to address the presiding resentment of locals towards their brand. They asked for a trophy when they’d effectively finished last.
Their attempts to cover over their problem with marketing was akin to putting a bandaid over a shotgun wound. They’d lost sight of the situation.
I worked on a PR campaign for a small Caribbean island’s tourism agency. We had a tough-but-necessary conversation with them for similar reasons. In a nutshell, we explained that if your airport experience is a cluster (it was), if your hotel owners are rude and indifferent (they were), no commercials will improve your tourism industry.
With marketing and life, we should endeavor to address the gorilla in the room, before chasing the monkey in the corner. Or risk being left with an even bigger gorilla.