One of the great things about Web 2.0 technology for corporate marketers is that it lets us encourage conversations between our knowledgeable employees and our loyal customers.
One terrifying thing about Web 2.0 technology for corporate marketers is that it enables conversation between our crazy employees and our most sensitive customers/investors/partners.
As much as Whole Foods has been able to take advantage of the new interactivity of the web to build their brand and connect with their customer base – they just got the tables turned as their CEO, John Mackey, was caught posting disparaging remarks about a competitor under a pseudonym in a Yahoo financial forum.
Gee, John, when your marketing department suggested you should be more “public” and do a better job of using the web to talk up the selling points of Whole Foods, we didn’t mean for you to invent a new identity, find a forum, and start trashing the company you’re trying to acquire.
The ramifications of John Mackey’s darker side will be that the FTC, which is already trying to block his purchase of competitor Wild Oats, is going to use his “aggressive” comments to show that he’s trying to suppress competition, etc.
I’m all for executives using wikis and forums and social networking to promote the brand. But is it time for marketing to build a “Rules of the Road” or messaging document to guide them on how not to get persecuted for socializing in a connected world? This is obviously a corner case but it certainly makes you wonder what your executives are saying on their MySpace page.