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Making The Angry Hordes Work For You: Lessons From Ellen and JC Penney

Ellen one million moms
Earlier today the always insightful Geoff Livingston share a post highlighting the fear major corporations have of the angry mobs unfortunately common to social media.  While this point is certainly valid, I have long believed that there is tremendous opportunity in utilizing advocacy and common sense to redirect that angry energy away from the brand and towards a common goal. For example, a few years back when one of my clients faced charges of customer abuse, I challenged them with creating an industry-wide customer bill of rights, raising the standard for their competition while inviting the community to participate in this industry leading transformation.  

Few marketers have the creativity and fortitude to pull this off.  Ellen Degeneres and JC Penney just showed us how this was done.

Over the past week, JC Penney has come under fire from certain "family values" organizations for adopting Ellen as a spokesperson.  These organizations didn't just make statements, they activated their base of outraged parents, utilizing both traditional and social channels to rally their communities.  Classic social media firestorm, right?  

Not only did JC Penney and Ellen stick by one another, they celebrated their advocates and in-so-doing changed the conversation.  Ellen used her popular syndicated talkshow as a platform to celebrate the individual advocates defending JC Penney on their antagonist's Facebook Fan Page.  Ellen called them out by name and showed screenshots of the conversations.  In so doing, she sent a message to her own legions of fans - don't just support JC Penney, let these organizations know what you think.  She took the conversation from an attack on JC Penney to a discussion on these organization's pages regarding the real issues at hand.  They utilized their earned and owned media to activate their advocates and shift this entire issue onto their antagonists.  They changed the mainstream conversation from one of challenging JC Penney to challenging their attackers.

Kudos Ellen and JC Penney on a brilliant communications strategy.  Here's to hoping many more large corporations can take a chapter from your book, get inspired, and join our conversation.  We're looking forward to talking to you.

Video below: