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Social media is a double-edged sword

Authored by Ajit Narayan, CMO and Program Head, SOCXO.

If you create a stir, be prepared of its “doosra” as well. And that, sums up the Zomato “Food is a religion” stir.

Couple of weeks back the buzz around “food is a religion” tweet by Zomato, brought the community (customers, fans and supporters) on its feet with support pouring in over its neutral stand on a customer demand on religious ground. Supporting a cause and standing up against bigotry seems like the natural thing brands would want to be seen as. Which is what they aspired for and had the guts to do it in social media as well.

Impressive. Is the word that came to mind at first, and it got some of the big wigs and other competing brands to endorse the thought as well. But hey, the internet never forgets! And any stand in public needs to also stand on its own in public scrutiny as well. And in a country of a billion people, wearing your thoughts on your sleeve might not work. As the narrative is still unfolding into other angles. When millions become analysts for a cause, comes the backlash. And people analysing the brand and the CEO handles to find anything that could be either deviating from the stand or could be twisted to their benefit is what the twist came to be. And there is more…

Couple of weeks down the original trend no longer exists but the reverse swings surfaces with app delete, and support for the other side pouring in. And not to be left out Zomato is now facing another controversy. Delivery boys to strike against delivering beef, pork in yet another religious twist to the whole story. Reminds me of the number of times Nike has stood for “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.” The Colin Kaepernick campaign it took on and while there were people burning Nike shoes and in fact, even had the President of America as its adversary. Such was the height of the power of the reverse swing. However, that was brand campaigning, and this was not done as a whim. It was a thought through course of action including the negatives and was consistent with the brand’s earlier campaigns for taking a stand.

Net result, despite the outrage, the Nike brand and business still profits as in it was leveraging social justice as a cause and people’s desire to do something for about it. Not so, in this case here. As it’s more of a knee jerk reaction, (however smart and right it seems).

Will Zomato be able to do the same? 

The difference here is that this is a new brand trying to establish itself in India and off shore. 

And there are many Indians within India itself. The metro India is quite different from the semi-urban. And the sensitivities are quite different. More than that, this is short term, off the cuff reaction, not an orchestrated campaign. 

It takes more than wearing your mind on your sleeve. It takes more than that. And consistently. It takes action. Maybe quiet action. I would think that staying away from religion and politics especially in India might be best in business and brand interests. Unless you have the will to see through both sides of the social stir and the guts to take the tank if required. 

While on the same topic. Zomato’s Twitter content has been witty and humorous and that has obviously got a lot of traction. Wit and humour are great things to have on your side in advertising and social media. However, the best example of taking on issues while steering clear of controversies is how Amul has been doing it for decades, consistently and in good humour. Maybe the folks at Zomato could borrow a few leaves from their book and use it on social?

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