This could not be defined news in any way at this point. The conversation around how 3M copied what could have been viral marketing created by customers for a promotional campaign is now two years old. [hat tip to Joe Jaffe]
Dozens of bloggers and media outlets documented the snafu. I searched on 3M's site for an official response to the posts, to the comments, to the conversation. Maybe I did not search properly, because I came up empty - and it is difficult for me to believe that everyone at 3M would stand behind a wall of silence on something that could have been such an amazing opportunity for their Post-it Note brand.
Look at the photos by Scott Ableman and then take a glance at the official 3M YouTube video and tell me if I'm not seeing double. Well, they did use a white Audi, Ableman's was a beige Jaguar. This is a brand that suddenly went from versatile, innovative, fun, to stodgy, unimaginative, who's having fun now? Why? Was it to save a couple thousand dollars? I cannot believe that for a moment. Really?
Maybe it was the need to come up with a cool idea and the intention was to work on a take off the original, but then they ended up looking identical? We could all make dozens of assumptions. Which in an of itself is already quite dangerous for the brand - and the sentiment towards the company's staff who engineered the viral element into a campaign.
David Meerman Scott has a balanced post about lessons learned and social media ethics. He lists (1) transparency; (2) privacy; (3) disclosure; (4) truthfulness; (5) credit. I am a member of many professional associations and each of them has a simple and clear code of ethics that all members promise to adhere to - PRSA, IABC, AMA, the alphabet soup. Not the mention a code of honor as human beings, etc.
The highlights in the discussion at Meerman Scott's blog touched upon too many topics to summarize. The general sentiment is a reflection of the image and experience that companies still project in the marketplace:
- concerned about profit - well as employees and investors we'd like profit, too. Probably not "only" profit, though. The current economic climate is a good example of thinking only about profit.
- not involved in social media because the lawyers say no - by all means, involve the lawyers, you pay them to advise you on business decisions, intellectual property, etc. The key word being "advise", not excuse. You still need to make the business decision.
- do not plain get it - take a look at any flier or any conference program almost in any industry today and the panels and sessions are filled to the brim with topics around social media. Lest it was not clear, we're not talking about tools here. This is about dynamics and how customers and people relate. Or would like to.
Ableman states in a comment that 3M's eMarketing supervisor was answering emails and then stopped. Well, that is like opening the door, then slamming it back on someone's face. If Joe Jaffe is pondering a post on this as well, we can rest assured that the discussion will continue. Where is 3M in this conversation?
While it pains me to admit it, I am all too aware of the circumstances that may be wrapping a tight seal around the company's representation in the discussion. How can I help? Is there someone at 3M who'd like to be heard?