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Guest Post: Turn Customers into Fans by Telling the Truth, Especially When It Hurts

This week we feature an article by David Meerman Scott who has written a new book, Fanocracy: Turning Fans into Customers and Customers into Fans about turning customers into customers and customers into fans. He shares a couple of examples about how companies have used lying and “Fake news” to turn customers into fans. Do […]

This week we feature an article by David Meerman Scott who has written a new book, Fanocracy: Turning Fans into Customers and Customers into Fans about turning customers into customers and customers into fans. He shares a couple of examples about how companies have used lying and “Fake news” to turn customers into fans.

Do you believe statements like “Your call is important to us” or “Due to higher than expected call volume, your wait time is longer than normal”? I sure don’t! Sadly, companies lie to customers all the time.

It also seems that not very many people believe what our leaders say. Politics has become theater. When politicians run for election, they make promises that they assume voters know they won’t keep.

Lying in public is now so widespread that some marketers even feel free to use it as a ploy to get attention. “Fake news” is so widespread it’s a joke.

IHOP: #IHOb and Lying to Your Fans

For example, social media exploded with the news, released June 4, 2018, that IHOP (International House of Pancakes) was to change their name a few days later to “IHOb” They made an announcement via a new verified Twitter feed at @IHOb:

For 60 pancakin’ years, we’ve been IHOP. Now, we’re flippin’ our name to IHOb. Find out what it could b on 6.11.18. #IHOb

“IHOb” retweeted an image of a crane replacing an IHOP sign with an IHOb one, making more plausible the idea they were changing their name.

Many IHOP fans shared their deep concern on social media. They wanted to know: What’s going on with the brand we love? Thousands of fans didn’t like the impending name change one bit and they said things on social media like:

• “IHOP is changing its name to IHOB and while people think it stands for “breakfast” I’m putting my money on BETRAYAL”
• “just found out ihop is changing their name to ihob and I feel like many of my constitutional rights are being violated”

Many mainstream media outlets were sucked in and published stories about the impending name change including The Washington Post, Florida’s Sun-Sentinel newspaper, Yahoo, CNN, and several local ABC and CBS network-affiliated television stations.

Then, on June 11, 2018, IHOb, er… IHOP let the world know the answer.

“Just kidding!”

They admitted they weren’t really going to change their name. It turns out it was simply a stunt to get social media talking about the fact that you can go to IHOP for more than just breakfast and, oh yeah, they now have burgers too.

It turns out that for IHOP, lying was a strategy. However, with this approach to business, they repelled fans—their best customers.

The idea of messing with the truth when communicating with the loyal fans of your company and its products is deception—not good business. And not the way to build what I call a Fanocracy.Fanocracy Book by David Meerman Scott

Over the course of many interactions taking months or years, a customer learns what a brand stands for. In the case of a restaurant, the brand also becomes such things as cleanliness, the demeanor of the staff, the quality of the food, and much more. Over dozens of visits that could span decades, generations of people come to know the kind of experience to expect. The relationship between a brand and its customers is a complicated one. Building trust takes time.

KFC: The Chicken Restaurant that Ran Out of Chicken

It was a #KFCCrisis! A chicken restaurant without any chicken!

One otherwise fine day in 2018, KFC ran out of chicken in the UK. KFC had changed logistics companies and the new provider fouled up the fowl deliveries.

KFC could have ducked the chicken problem or hid behind gobbledygook words or blamed the logistics company, the sorts of actions we expect. Instead of the typical response, KFC did a wonderful job communicating on social networks and via advertisements, using humor to get people interested but providing valuable information to their fans, those who frequent the company’s restaurants.

In UK newspapers, the company ran full-page advertisements cleverly changing the KFC logo on a chicken bucket to FCK. One of the ads read:

We’re sorry. A chicken restaurant without any chicken. Huge apologies to our customers, especially those who traveled out of their way to find we were closed. And endless thanks to our KFC team members and our franchise partners for working tirelessly to improve the situation. It’s been a hell of a week, but we’re making progress, and every day more and more fresh chicken is being delivered to our restaurants. Thank you for bearing with us.

The company quickly created a website to provide a list of all UK restaurants and the chicken status of each. They also offered rewards to people affected via the company smartphone app.

On social media, the company was constantly providing updates, many with the fun approach of the ads.

Based on the reaction on social media, KFC did an excellent job handling this crisis. They were quick to communicate, they were transparent in telling customers what was happening, and they did so in an engaging way. And when chicken started being served again, all was forgiven.

KFC is turning customers into fans!

There is no other choice than, to tell the truth when your fans deserve to know what’s happening. You don’t gloss over the negative, you face it right off, you are clear and specific They are many different approaches to this including the humor we especially enjoy used by KFC.

David Meerman Scott spotted the real-time marketing revolution in its infancy. Now David says the pendulum has swung too far in the direction of superficial online communications. Organizations have learned to win by developing what he calls a “Fanocracy” – tapping into the mindset that relationships with customers are more important than the products they sell to them.

For more articles from Shep Hyken and his guest contributors go to Hyken Guest Blog Post

Read Shep’s latest Forbes article: Three Quotes That Inspire Great Leadership And Success

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