Viral Marketing Gone Horribly Wrong
By Charles On 27 Dec, 2011 At 06:59 PM | Categorized As Editorials, News, PlayStation | With 2 Comments

No GravatarNow, I’m no prodigy in marketing or advertising. A lot of my experience was in the late-’00s, when I worked in radio promotions and ran the Publicity department at a small indie record label, back when new media amounted to Myspace and Facebook was still a place college students went to hang out away from the teenagers. I ran a few grassroots marketing campaigns and built a business model for digital-only distribution. And I cultivated relationships with a few blogs and internet music news sites. But the current news involving Ocean Marketing and a disgruntled customer has really struck a proverbial chord with me. Allow me to explain a bit.

It all seemed to start when a customer awaiting his Avenger controller emailed the company responsible for publicity back on December 17th. What followed was an exchange in increasingly volatile emails that eventually degenerated into name-calling and personal insults, which was when said customer decided to copy his next reply to a few outlets, including Kotaku and, most eventfully, Penny Arcade.

When Mike Krahulik, one of the brains behind PA, decided to intervene, essentially calling this marketer out for name-dropping PA (specifically PAXEast) in his return email,  he found himself on the receiving end of a few nasty emails (one referring to supposed “low quality” found on PA’s site, a site he praised a few emails earlier). Well, Mike did what any self-respecting internet webmaster would do: he made it the front page of the site.

And then the storm came. In addition to Penny Arcade, Kotaku, Reddit and some other sites began to chime in. As did some of the other people he name-dropped. And of course twitter. And the response hasn’t exactly been favorable for Ocean Marketing.

IGN’s Scott Lowe asserted via Twitter that Ocean Marketing does not have his support, and that the President is “unprofessional.” The response? A negative reply tweet identical in language to the tone set in the email. This, in turn made it into a post by G4, also name dropped by Ocean, which called out Ocean for being inherently unprofessional.

Like many other outlets and writers, I am not taking sides with what was said. I didn’t order one of these controllers. But as someone who once did at least a little PR work, I couldn’t help but be flabbergasted by the replies coming from the PR/Marketing company. This is not how I (or anyone else I knew at the time) handled PUBLIC discourse. Granted, there were a few emails here and there about professionalism, and there were always people who could easily be described as blustery, but within the realms of customer service and promotions, no matter what you thought of the person at the other end, you treated them with respect and basic dignity. Business dealing rarely, if ever, resulted in personal comments, insults, etc. What Ocean did in this case, regardless of how the customer replied, is tantamount to trolling and posturing, trying to show how “big” they were, and conversely, how “insignificant” the customer was. Which has traditionally been something that was anathema to any marketing or customer service agent. While anyone who has ever worked in service knows how annoying some customers can be, one never talks down to them or treats them with contempt. Especially not when said customer can then share that conversation with the entire internet.

You can see from some of the links how that turned out. Risky gambles are risky for a reason. And, as one G4 commenter pointed out, the internet is a massively global community that can easily make or break companies. Will this instance change anything for the manufacturer? Not likely. Will it have an impact on Ocean Marketing? Probably. At the very least, the negativity displayed online will either force the company to re-examine its methods of business dealing, or will cost them clients. But marketing is a fickle world, and things change at the drop of a hat, so nothing is certain.

Well, one thing did come out of it (as Im seeing right now)- the company changed their twitter handle.

About - Charles has written for ROG since 2010. An anthropologist and culture lecturer, he has previously been a featured panelist at Anime Boston and Otakon, the first educational guest at Anime USA, and frequently speaks at cons up and down the East Coast. He received his MA in cultural anthropology in 2011, and currently writes on convention culture, sacred culture in media, otaku identity and mythology.

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