Archive for the ‘Buzz’ Category

Tips for Addressing Brand Misuse While Mitigating PR Backlash

By David Bell, Lawyer and Chair of Social Media Practice at Haynes and Boone, LLP

Perhaps you’ve heard about Chick-fil-A’s recent “oops” moment. The company fired off a cease and desist letter to a Vermont artist over his use of and trademark application for EAT MORE KALE. The chicken eatery sent the letter in an effort to protect its EAT MOR CHIKIN tagline, but the letter sparked an outcry throughout Facebook and the blogosphere. It also led to an anti Chick-fil-A petition that has already garnered tens of thousands of signatures and a CNN feature story mocking the company.

Marketing professionals know that protecting a brand can be vital to its continued success. Cease and desist letters aim to persuade someone to stop brand misuse, without having to resort to a lawsuit. In the past, letters might fall on the desks of just the recipients or their lawyers. Social media now spreads many of these letters like wildfire. One overly aggressive notice could land a full-page blog post, thousands of re-tweets, and negative publicity. In some cases, this is unavoidable, and a strongly-worded letter is simply needed. In others, the public relations risk should be more heavily weighed.
Tips and questions to ask before sending a letter:

  • Research the individual or company to whom you plan to send a cease and desist notice. Who posted the content—a current or former employee or vendor, a company critic or competitor, or a well-intentioned consumer or fan?
  • Consider how a proposed notice will be received. Think about how it would play out in the press or before a judge. The additional time researching and writing an appropriate letter is well spent. It can help to avoid a PR fiasco or positive to the receiving party, as in the Vermont kale enthusiast’s case. In some cases, you can also lower the risk that the recipient will file a preemptive lawsuit, asking a judge to rule that there is no infringement occurring.
  • Consider whether sending a letter is even appropriate. If no action is taken, the brand misuse might not create much true harm. For instance, if it appears in a single blog post, it might be deeply buried on the website after another day or two. And if on an unpopular website of social media account, few eyes may see it anyway—again, assuming you don’t fuel the fire by unnecessarily upsetting that person.
  • Use a tone appropriate to the situation. It should parallel the company’s level of concern, speak appropriately to the person who will receive the notice, and reflect the company’s values. Polite requests can be more effective than aggressive letters. Of course, the result that your company is seeking, and how quickly, is important. If the situation involves truly abhorrent behavior by an infringer, then a letter should more likely be sent by outside counsel. Among other advantages, this allows the company to distance itself somewhat from any harsh tone necessarily included in the letter.
  • A cease and desist notice is almost never confidential or privileged. It is very possible that a notice will end up on the recipient’s blog or website, or in the news, and the sending company will likely have no legal recourse.
  • Spin your wins. Use your company’s blog, social media outlets, and website to educate the public that you are shutting down frauds because you want to protect customers against malicious activity and work to keep costs down. When communicated with care, this can leave a favorable public impression, not to mention advise customers to beware of unauthorized products, vendors, social media pages, apps, and other Internet and mobile content.

In short, to avoid the “fowl” attention that Chick-fil-A landed, before sending out cease and desist letters, brand owners should weigh PR risks against business and legal considerations, think carefully about whether a letter should be sent, and match the tone and language of a letter to the circumstances at hand.

The opinions expressed here are those of the author only and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the law firm with which the author is associated, or its other lawyers or clients.

The Practical Marketing Applications of Facebook (Part 1 of 4)

By Sam Mallikarjunan, Chief Executive Officer of Mallikarjunan Media Group

Any business owner, from the Fortune 500 to the corner liquor store, has heard about the tremendous potential of social media for Internet marketing. However, although everyone acknowledges and accepts that social media has great potential, and many of them know they should be involved, few people understand the specific, practical marketing applications for social media sites.

In this four-part blog post, I’m going to profile one such social media site: Facebook. I’ll also share some data that I’ve aggregated through my research. Keep in mind that there are many third-party applications that make using Facebook easier that I’ll profile as well.

What is Facebook?

Facebook is the 800-pound gorilla in the social media marketing world. The brainchild of Harvard geek Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook now has more than 500 million users (yeah, that’s about seven percent of the population of the entire planet) and has created a phenomenon of unprecedented scope and scale.

Hundreds of millions of people spend huge segments of their daily lives on this single site, interacting with friends, sharing content, playing games, and scheduling or organizing their social lives. It’s become a venue for collective action, knowledge, and an incredibly detail-rich (if personally detached) social environment. Users willingly share an incredible amount of personal information, and they greatly trust product and service recommendations made by members of their network.

Facebook has also created a incredible scale of off-site integration. Although many social sites—such as Twitter, Digg, Buzz, and others—have buttons that allow you to share content, Facebook has created a phenomenon with its social plug-in applications. Facebook’s Developers Guide is probably the best way to find out more about what options it offers and how to install them.

If you haven’t already, go to the Facebook site and create a personal profile for yourself.

Part 2