The Great Marketing Conspiracy that wasn't
When there is no "right" way to go - American Airlines and Down Syndrome Passengers in First Class

What Should BIC Do Now?

51CqY3ULKDLBIC has become a punch line to the digital culture's joke.  The community has piled on, and BIC doesn't seem to be engaging.  What should they do now?

If I were at BIC, I would set this up as follows:

  • Assemble a SWAT team of people senior enough to make the tough calls but junior (at-heart) enough to roll up their sleeves and get work done.  Be sure to include a member of corp comms, marketing, product and at least one person who is a digital native and will appreciate the social culture.  It goes without saying that this team must include members of the female persuasion who can relate to those participating in this meme.
  • Identify someone who "gets" social and give them 12 hours to build a report detailing the history and scope of the meme.  This report should not be judgmental, but it needs to show the human side of the problem by showing the down and dirty quotes from the community and in context.
  • Be mindful of bringing in an outside consultancy.  The right solution is going to be one that embraces BIC for their corporate culture and operations.  Outsides with little previous experience should serve as coaches that can bring out the best in the organization, not leaders who will make the tough calls.
  • Develop a strategy that recognizes the vocal position of the community, monitors and reports on the community... and whatever you do, own it.  

2 Overall Approaches

  1. Ride It Out
    If the strategy is to quietly discontinue the product and rerelease a similar but better named product while hoping that the community will burn itself out, be sure to listen and monitor the community with an active response strategy available as-needed (if the community doesn't burn out).   
  2. Engage With Care
    If you decide to actively engage the community, prepare for a rough ride.  This is what you earn when you ignore your public.  Be mindful that actively engaging in the conversation may add fuel to the fire.  Don't try to get cutesy or stick to a PR talking point.  Develop a message that is real, that is honest and that comes from the heart.  

If you decide to engage, do not engage every blogger or every Facebook commenter.  Focus your efforts on doing big things that will matter to a lot of people and small things that will have a big impact on people's perception.  This is an area where engaging a knowledgeable outside party with proven experience makes all the sense in the world.  The message needs to be BIC, the words need to come from BIC, but the knowledge of how to best use each social platform can come from an outside coach.

Moving Forward

There is nothing like a good fire to get started on some remodeling.  If this is what social can do to BIC, imagine what the community can do for BIC.  And it’s going to start by embracing the community.  Embrace listening, embrace customer participation in product design and feedback and get a personality.  Your community clearly is showing theirs.  Make this an opportunity to transform the brand's community perception both online and offline.

Pens are an inherently expressive medium.  BIC's social opportunity is written all over the web.  And with the world's attention, there has never been a better time to get their act together and make it happen.