BTC Lecture 2.2

No one doubted that Apple did indeed Think Different in 1997, when it introduced a series of advertisements featuring the plucky, succinct directive. Instead, consumers instantly bought into the mindset, peppered by familiar images of everyone from Kermit the Frog to Albert Einstein.

It’s been two decades since Apple’s winning campaign, yet it remains evergreen. The secret is its ability to bypass humans’ natural skepticism and bond quickly with viewers. In other words, it facilitates an immersive, emotional relationship between buyer and brand.

Chances are strong that your company’s social media strategy could use a similar shot of this profitable type of loyalty-inducing recognition, affection and traction. But you’re never going to form a tribe of advocates until you promote your business socially as a personality with heart and soul—not just a faceless supplier.

Psychological studies repeatedly show that despite consumers’ testaments to the contrary, their purchase decisions basically boil down to feelings. Why else would so many otherwise frugal customers shell out extra money for high-priced branded groceries when equally nutritious generics are available?

Truly, we are sentimental creatures hiding behind a facade of rationalism. However, that doesn’t mean we aren’t wise. Thanks to the internet’s extreme information transparency, shoppers can immediately sniff out untrustworthy organizations. In fact, consumers seem to be on the hunt for deception.  An Edelman study suggests that the collective “trust barometer” has dipped and it’s not likely to rise again soon.

Of course, this doesn’t mean winning is impossible. To prove the point, seven out of YouTube’s top 10 ads of 2017 feature visions of diversity, inclusion and empowerment—all emotionally resonant messages that drive connections with the audience. Applying these same emotional appeals within your social posts can drive similar engagement, encouraging consumers to develop connections with both your social pages and your brand as a whole.

Even if your team has spent little time exploring the way your brand comes across on social platforms, you’re not too far behind to make strides. Jump-start your engagement by implementing the following suggestions:

Own your cultural landscape position
Stop thinking of your business as a something and start considering it a someone. Successful corporations must operate like members of the culture rather than simply detached suppliers of goods and services.

“At a fundamental level, we believe that when people make a purchase … they are actually using that product or service to add meaning to their lives,” says Gavin Johnston, chief strategy officer at Bradley and Montgomery. “It’s actually our culture that says a diamond has more value than a ruby, gold has more value than silver, an Apple mobile device has more value than a Nokia … It suggests that the choice they’re making is actually very important to them.”

This is a responsibility that brands must take on when interacting with customers over social platforms. Emphasize the cultural components of your customers’ lives in your posts—from images of your product connected to their daily activities to conversation starters related to their favorite subjects—to become part of the greater cultural discussion.

Tap authentically into a social cause
Chipotle was on the road to destruction after negative public relations from a number of national health scares. However, amid the swirling winds of adversity, Chipotle never lost its commitment to environmental stewardship. Hence, it continued to promote and grow the Food With Integrity campaign for which it is now known.

Rather than allowing others to define the trajectory of the restaurant, Chipotle’s leaders doubled down on its promotion of locally sourced ingredients through both traditional marketing and social media.

Follow its lead and use your voice and platform to champion causes that your team believes in. This will not only bolster the cultural and emotional connections that encourage users to interact with your posts, but it also helps position your social brand as a trusted voice.

Curate your content
You’re probably already pushing content to customers and prospects. Are you doing this task purposefully? Some researchers argue that marketers need to remember the 80-20 rule when generating content calendars. Specifically, only one-fifth of content should be purely sales or promotional. The other four-fifths needs to be directly valuable to audience members.

Planning to use video as part of your content? You’re making a smart decision, but don’t rely too heavily on music, dialog or voiceovers. Statistics indicate that around eight out of 10 people regularly mute video ads they see online. Thus, you’ll want to ensure that your videos have just as much impact and interest without chatter or noise.

Encourage conversations through feedback
Social media is, at its core, a driver of conversation and connection. Want to know what people think about your brand or how they feel about a new initiative? Ask them. Too often, we forget to prompt readers, listeners and viewers to swing back around and give us their insights. If you don’t ask, you’ll never get valuable input: You’ll be left in the dark.

Of course, not all feedback needs to take the form of comments on a post or direct messages to corporate leaders. Try probing into individuals’ thoughts with everything from surveys to “knowledge testing” posts on your social pages. Then, use what you learn to further develop your corporate persona so that it matches what consumers need in a brand partner.

Don’t sweat those dropping analytics
It’s sad, but true: The dark social sharing phenomenon has killed many an analytics report. Dark social shares—like copy-and-pasting into a message or word of mouth—account for almost two-thirds of all social sharing of content and can’t be measured. After all, these shares are taking place on platforms like WhatsApp or via person-to-person texts.

On the one hand, it’s exciting to know that humanity has found new, exciting ways to transfer information in real-time. On the other, it’s frustrating because you can’t depend on numbers to accurately reflect what’s being said about our content or when it’s being talked about.

Therefore, take heart when you spot a wobbly analytics report: If your revenue is on the uptick, you have less to worry about than you might think.

Ready to be the “think different” player in your industry? The only way to bridge the gap between you and your target audience members is to fully understand how to captivate them emotionally, and social media makes it easy to forge that connection. You can have the greatest features and benefits in the world, but it’s your inherent goodwill that will cause people to buy.

BTC127 Case Study 2.2: British Petroleum Runs the Social Media Gauntlet


British Petroleum rose to media infamy after an unfortunate accident led to a three month-long oil leak that despoiled the Gulf of Mexico and the southern coast of the United States. The disastrous offshore leak that occurred in the summer of 2010 continues to have serious repercussions for both the coastal environment and British Petroleum’s public image. BP’s efforts to combat this crisis through social media were largely regarded as unsuccessful, but this large company’s failed attempt makes a valuable case study for future practitioners in the field.


With roots in the early twentieth century, the British Petroleum Company was formally established in 1954. At the time most of its operations were in the Middle East, but it quickly expanded to Alaska and struck oil in the North Sea. Today, it operates in more than eighty countries and is the third-largest energy company in the world. Its largest division is BP America, which produces more oil in the United States than any other American company.


On April 20, 2010, an explosion on the BP-operated Deepwater Horizon oil-drilling platform released a rapid flow of oil on the bottom of the ocean. The explosion killed 11 workers aboard the rig and injured 17 others. The leak was finally stopped on July 15, 2010, after it had released nearly 5 million barrels of crude oil.

British Petroleum’s early response to the crisis was generally seen as less about public engagement and more about spin control. BP’s social media campaign did not start up in earnest until a month after the spill was announced. The company purchased promotional placement on Google and Yahoo to control search results for terms such as “oil spill” and sent viewers to positive articles about the clean-up. Later, the company spent $50 million on a TV campaign to promote BP’s positive role. These expensive efforts did not help, instead “feeding a meme that BP is tonedeaf — more concerned with polishing its reputation than cleaning up its mess.”

Reaching for more social media platforms, BP’s CEO, Tony Hayward, gave a public apology on YouTube. The video drew several parodies and was generally not received well. More parody accounts were hounding BP on other social networks. On Twitter the account @BPGlobalPR quickly gathered 175,000 followers by mocking BP’s failure to resolve the oil spill. BP’s official Twitter account, @BP_America, had been used by the company as a broadcasting channel and very little for community interaction. The parody account had more than ten times as many followers as the company’s official Twitter page, allowing the parody to dominate the online conversation. Meanwhile, dozens of anti-BP Facebook groups sprang up, dwarfing the company’s presence on that platform as well.


For many years BP’s core business did not seem to call for, or even suggest, pursuing a social media strategy. The unfortunate result was that when a crisis occurred and BP desperately needed to communicate its message to the public, the company’s attempt to bootstrap a social media presence by purchasing public attention was seen as inauthentic. This negative reaction illustrates the importance of starting a social media campaign … before problems arise and have to be cleaned up.

After engaging the media, BP’s initial strategy was to refuse direct responsibility for the leak. When Tony Hayward was interviewed on the Today Show he said, “It wasn’t our accident, but we are absolutely responsible for the oil, for cleaning it up, and that’s what we intend to do.” This statement may have been partly motivated by legal concerns, as a full apology would open BP up to greater liability in court. However, this half-hearted approach did little to win over the general public. As a consequence of the accident and the weakly perceived PR response, BP fell from being the most highly ranked in customer loyalty in the oil industry to being the lowest ranked. It will clearly be some time before its reputation fully recovers.

Rather than engaging in a top-down image management campaign, British Petroleum could have been better served by a more subtle social media campaign. One of its biggest mistakes was “failing to take advantage of social networking to open a clear line of communication with people living on the Gulf Coast and around the world.” There was an opportunity for BP to take revolutionary steps by engaging with those affected by the spill in more personal ways than grants of aid or clean-up assistance. That chance was missed in BP’s case, but other companies can learn from its mistake by creating social media accounts for damage control, hopefully well before they are needed.

Kristi Nason – BUS 127

Assignment 2.2

  1. What benefits would BP have gained from starting a serious social media campaign a year before instead of a month after the oil spill? Be as specific as possible.

They would have come across as more credible if they already had a presence online. A transparent, environmentally concerned, people-centered, and responsible online personality ahead of time could have built a trusting community who would be willing to hear the response to the oil spill incident with some level of compassion. Their community may even have been defending advocates. Although they probably didn’t predict the spill, if they’d been passive (using search, listen and respond techniques) they would have known that public concerns about potential environmental risks already existed. They may have been able to address these concerns and tell the story of steps and strategies involved with prevention.

  1. While the parody account was posting on Twitter, BP asked for the account to be shut down. The social media site refused, saying that parodies were allowed under its terms of service. Is there a better way BP could have handled the accounts making fun of them?

They could have been an active member of those conversations. Accepting responsibility for the truths being portrayed, providing facts ahead of them, and countering any negative facts being presented would have shown that they cared about the environmental crisis and not just public opinion. They could have thanked community members who offered constructive ideas and responded to them with implementation and messaging around the implementations. The ability to be humble and honest may have had a positive effect on the community’s emotional reactions.

  1. BP was criticized for underestimating the extent of the oil spill at first: the company is said to have underestimated the leak’s size by as much as a fifth the real amount. Would BP have been better off to report a higher number and perhaps risk overestimating the extent of the leak? Why or why not?

The best policy would have been (and always is) to be honest and report the facts as they became known. Although they had a legal dilemma with accepting more responsibility than was truly theirs, under-estimating only creates a scenario where they have to tell a worse truth later, or have to respond to others who are telling the worse truth, and be exposed as less than trustworthy to the community. If they honestly got the information wrong initially, owning up to it immediately when new facts were available is a trust-building response. His initial response showed how out of touch he was with the environmental issues and the community immediately impacted, or that he did not care about them at all.

  1. Go on YouTube and view Tony Hayward’s apology. Was this a well-constructed social media message? Should YouTube have been used differently, the same, or not at all in presenting BP’s case? Explain your argument.

Overall, and on its face (without additional news coverage and commentary), the message was fairly well-constructed but should have come later in a deeper campaign that started with taking full responsibility for a disaster they were unprepared for. It did tell a compelling piece of the story about what actions were being taken to address clean up. What was inherently wrong with the message was that it attempted to imply that they were taking action to undo the damage. It was a bit too “feel-good-we’ve-got-this-under-control” for the circumstances. The messaging failed to understand the long-term impact of the disaster and the elements that could not be undone with an appropriate amount of regret and responsibility. He said he was sorry, but it came across flat rather than heart-felt. After his initial comment to a reporter, (potentially paraphrased) “No one wants this over as quickly as I do. I want my life back” he needed to undo a LOT of damage. “I want my life back” implies that what he’s sorry about is how the disaster was personally affecting him – which only evokes anger.

They absolutely needed a video message campaign – video coverage of the disaster was on every news channel all the time – and YouTube is an obvious appropriate tool. Another tool would have been public press announcements with questions and answers from live people. They needed a message that took responsibility and showed the public how they would learn from the disaster (how their business would change as a result) as well as their clean up efforts. I would have recommended someone else become the “face” and messenger for the company. Hayward had already shown his true colors and he didn’t do enough to undo the damage – there may not be a way to. BP should have fired him immediately for his “I want my life back” comment.

  1. Now, 10 years later, has BP been able to bounce back from this crisis?  Explain.

To some degree, yes. Their focus on company responsibility reports and sustainable energy goals has improved their image. A quick browse of their facebook page shows they invest heavily in a message of corporate responsibility, employing Americans, renewable energy stories, charitable support of diverse organizations, a personable introduction to employees from the CEO to Senior Director of Diversity and Inclusion, and also in programs encouraging students to pursue careers in science. “At the Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week, for example, BP covered the cost of carbon credits for the approximately 32,000 people who attend the largest sustainability conference in the Middle East” (, Five years After Deepwater Horizon, Can BP Repair Its Reputation?). Although they may never recover with environmentalists and communities in the gulf coast who have been (and still are) affected by their oil spill, in communities like Whatcom County, they are seen as a business who supports its employees and their family members and contribute large amounts of money to local non profits. They seem to be living up to their slogan “keep advancing”.