Digital Disguise: Discovering the Intentions and Identity Behind Corporate Blogging.
Hidden Intentions. Companies mask identities in hopes to persuade consumers.
A booming field in marketing and advertising is to reach to consumers in the technological environment where they work and play, the world-wide web.
To stay in front of competitors and to beat the impatient, click-happy internet browsers from exiting from their advertisements, some corporations have used the internet to build artificial support for their product/service.
Building a brand into a personality is an appealing step into making a personal connection with consumers; yet building a digital spokesperson to influence decisions in a hidden and deceptive manner is an unethical occurrence that is becoming more evident.
Hidden Identities. Companies mask identities in hopes to persuade consumers.
Blogs were written about Wal-Mart under the biased point of view of two Working Families for Wal-Mart representatives. These representatives created a blog that charted a woman and man’s road-trip across America, staying in the parking lots of Wal-Marts. The identity of the bloggers were not identified and therefore their biased story was broadcast to the world under the impression of an subjective family who looks to Wal-Mart as a reliable homestead.
Sony Computer Entertainment America was also revealed to have published support for the company’s PSP system without identifying that support came within the corporation.
In Sony’s case, they created a “flog” which involved a man Peter, who rapped in his blog about getting a PSP for the holidays. When criticized about not revealing on the site that Peter was a constructed character, Sony responded that these marketing efforts reflected Sony “trying to be just a little too clever.” Further in the statement, the author mentioned that they would “stick to making cool products, and…give you nothing but the facts on the PSP.” Sony’s “clever” attempt at persuading the public may have been more accepted if they had openly identified the source of the video instead of creating an inaccurate, implicated public demand for the PSP.
Giving Power to the Public
Chevy took the opposite approach to Sony’s disguised blogging and instead gave the users an unrestricted forum for creating video advertisements about the Chevy Tahoe.
Chevy gave consumers freedom to use Chevy created images and attach their own dialog to report their feelings about the Tahoe vehicle.
The site collected positive and negative reports, but Chevy refused to remove any negative postings about the vehicle. Chevy implemented the two-way dialog between customer and company.
While this method is to harness the truth from consumers and work to improve their perceptions of the product this method can be risky for the company in terms of gaining support after negative press.
Reacting to Negative Press. How to respond after a mistake.
Once a company is identified as the responsible party for deceptive or potentially damaging material on the internet, the company needs to confess or defend themselves against the accusations.
AOL encountered such accusations when search data was released from an AOL research site. Personal information regarding subscriber search results was made available. The search results were collected in hopes of contributing to university or company marketing research efforts.
AOL issued an apology for the mishap and expressed their dedication to making sure that this type of error will never happen again.
Protecting Customers Conventional Mistake, Hackers = Not an Excuse
The internet is susceptible for private information to be leaked to the vast quantity of internet users. Websites are run and managed by humans, and are therefore susceptible for error.
Various social networking sites need established security settings to protect user information. Glitches in these security settings can allow hackers access to personal information of subscribed users.
A glitch in Myspace allowed for hackers to view comments and photos that were set as private by the user. These intrusions are especially sensitive for underage users of these sites.
MRS FIELDS COOKIES
These companies were caught by the Federal Trade Commission for violating privacy issues regarding minors. The snack companies allowed for minors to signup and post personal information without the consent of a parent. The social network had a glitch where sites created by minors could be publically viewed.
DANGERS of Disguise
The danger of not disguising vulnerable user information can be compared to the danger of not revealing intentions of company created sites. In the public’s best interest, companies need to understand that personal information should not be accessed in deceitful ways and that marketing intentions need to be clear when broadcasting to the public.
Removing the marketing disguises enables customers to make informed decisions and accurate perceptions about the industry’s intentions. This transparency approach engages in vital two way communication that promotes the honest and personal communication between the customer and corporation.
Protecting the interest of the consumer should be of highest priority to a company, and cheap tricks to gain a profit showed by viewed as unethical and moreover unacceptable.