Celebrities supposedly lead cool lives we should envy, but of course there is a major other side of this coin. Being a public figure makes you the object of constant criticism and scrutiny whenever you put out something new. Every little step you take can and will be monitored and commented upon. And the thing is, as a pop star it is absolutely crucial to realize from the start that you cannot satisfy everybody. With the sheer number of people involved in the release of a pop star’s album or a gig they throw, you know that in the social media era disappointed tweets, angry status updates, disrespectful Instagrams, overly critical articles, bad reviews and destroying columns are likely to be sent into the world. Even if your album is a masterpiece and the concert was a blast, there always will be haters.
Well, pop celebrities learned the hard way that ‘tough times & words make you stronger’. But it is not only about growing an elephant skin when growing in your career. It is also about how to prove the critics wrong. Step 1 is to not panic. Chances are that for every garbage review there are 3 times more raving reviews, so focus on the positive. Step 2 is to ignore. Walt Disney, an art-pop icon, once said ‘We are not trying to entertain the critics. I’ll take my chances with the public’. It is important to keep focusing on the fans, the users, the ones who actually paid for the concert ticket rather than those who got free VIP tickets, arrived late and were flirting with that cool groupie chick backstage instead of actually paying attention to what was happening on stage. Step 3 is my favorite: fight back. Turn the negativity of criticism to your advantage.
When Bruno Mars released his single ‘Locked out of heaven’ which features on his ‘Unorthodox Jukebox’ album (which he won the Best Pop Vocal Album Grammy Award for), the critics couldn’t help but refer to it as ‘a The Police rip-off’. Bruno Mars was portrayed as a Sting-sounding ‘The Police wannabe’ lacking originality, surfing on already existing melodies. Bruno’s response to this critique was to peacefully and efficiently fight back: first, he responded wittily in interviews saying ‘hell yeah, it sounds like The Police. I grew up listening to The Police. Sting has a high voice, just like me’
Check out the MTV interview snippet here:
An even better response to his alleged melody-stealing and -copy/pasting from the eighties British pop-ska band, was to invite Sting along on stage to perform the song together during the 2013 Grammy Award show. The critics went silent after that. Today, comparisons are still made with Sting but critics who point that out as an issue have become objects of criticism themselves. If both Sting ànd Bruno Mars are ok with the comparison, then the discussion stops right there, no?
Here’s the performance:
Hot tweetaway: What brands can learn from @BrunoMars insit.es/1tDF7uH by @HakimZemni via @CoolBrands #bandsnbrands #coolbrands #thepolicewannabe
So, what can Brands learn from Bands?
For brands in general and marcom teams in specific, the magnet of listening to critics is always around. Fact is that, just like for any pop star, you can find a lot of negative buzz anywhere if you are a big brand. The most important thing to do is to stay focused and to not get distracted.
Step 1 is to find out how big the problem is. Count the heads. If somebody tweets a destroying comment on your new product launch or campaign and nobody picks it up, just ignore it. Let it vanish by itself. Never ever ever delete it, because that could be the start of a new wave of (rightful) criticism which hurts you where it hurts the most: the ‘emotional’ or ‘human’ part of your brand. Just let it pass by, like you wouldn’t care about a dog barking at quiet dogs in a kennel. And should it spread like a huge viral fire and all the dogs in the house start barking, ask yourself whether you can solve the issue or whether you cannot do anything about it. If you have a solution, then consider a change but only do so remembering what Walt Disney used to say: first check what the fans and the actual users are saying, do not let yourself be led by the critics only. Self-respecting and authentic brands follow, monitor and change according to what their consumers say, not according to what the negativists or ‘other-brand’ users have to say.
Hot tweetaway: Negative #buzz? Check what your users/fans are saying, don’t get carried away by the critics insit.es/1tDF7uH by @HakimZemni via @CoolBrands
Always remember that negative buzz is not the end of the world and that there is good buzz and bad buzz for almost every brand.
Take McDonald’s. According to a 2013 Harvard Business Review article the brand boasts 33% brand lovers and 29% brand haters. If there is something that McDonald’s proves, it is that you can be a polarizing brand and a love brand at the same time. Just not for everyone on the planet. Check out the Twitter handle on this one:
Because the question actually is: why would you ever want to be a love brand for 7 billion people? Just be realistic and pick your battles. McDonald’s also proves that negative buzz about health issues and caloric foods stimulates good buzz too: product lovers rush to defend their favorite burger brand:
Also, McDonald’s has moved into the solution zone for the haters, without losing its essence of selling indulgent burgers in a bun in a fast-food context, by introducing salads and other low-calorie menus and by supporting Olympic Games and childrens’ hospitals for instance. All this to lean forward to the haters without alienating the core lovers.
So remember that bad buzz can help accelerate good buzz and do not forget that bad buzz can also help brands to distinguish and differentiate their products from those of the competition.
Hot tweetaway: Bad #buzz can help accelerate good buzz insit.es/1tDF7uH by @HakimZemni via @CoolBrands #bandsnbrands cc @McDonalds