The Wellington Phoenix did well to sack its cowboy brand butler after a string of off-colour tweets.
In a very short space of time, the power to define and control a brand has shifted from companies and corporations to individuals and communities, which means the online conversation should never be overtly controlled, organised or ‘on message’. While conversations should be entirely organic, they should always speak in a voice that is consistent with what the brand stands for.
So with that in mind, I congratulate Wellington Phoenix for making a swift and very public decision to red card the person looking after its Twitter account.
The Phoenix outsourced live football updates via its Twitter account. In marketing speak this is called being a 'brand butler' (delivering something of added value to the existing brand-consumer relationship). However, the person responsible for tweeting updates crossed the line.
While no formal complaints were laid, some fairly high profile members of the Twitterverse tweeted their disapproval. Ex-Phoenix chief executive Tony Pignata said: “Really do we have to read tweets like this. Your [sic] not very funny. Bit of respect".
Other followers agreed, saying the “Phoenix Twitter person makes the club look very amateur. Bad, bad look for the club. #disgrace".
But have they overreacted? After all football has a diverse and passionate following; lads, louts, ladies – no one is excluded. Head into a pub in Chelsea for Sunday football and a deaf man will come out swearing like a pirate.
So why should the Phoenix care about what’s being said on Twitter, so long as the message is being delivered? They axed their social media person, who cares?
Well I do. I’m on Twitter and up until now I haven’t followed them, but I will now. Their ability to act quickly and with (apparent) transparency when they saw their values and brand positioning were being violated means I view them as honest, approachable and willing to listen to feedback – attributes that a social brand must embrace.
Companies spend a lot of time and money putting into words what the brand stands for and creating a blueprint for how it should ‘speak’. Phoenix's head of marketing said it himself: “We gave clear directions on the Phoenix voice, which were not followed.”
The offender isn’t the first and won’t be the last to litter their commentary with innuendo and sexual references. Who can forget some of Murray Mexted’s blunders?
Some may say this is overkill and the perfect example of what NOT to do in the social sphere. But what do you think? Did the comments warrant a swift dismissal?
Kaleb Francis is digital brand strategist at Marque - Brand Partners