Marketing Doctor John Tantillo’s Winner and Loser of The Week
Until this week, I have never come across a better example of a brand focusing on its Target Market and ignoring conventional Public Relations messaging –to its benefit.
I’m talking about www.beautifulpeople.com, a dating website for good-looking folks that says it only accepts the very best.
From its start, the website had faced heavy criticism for so-called discrimination as it vigorously rejected many applicants for not meeting its aesthetic standards. But last week, the brand was really put to the test when a hacker virus allowed 30,000 applicants who normally would be rejected to be accepted.
The company’s reaction was swift and harsh. Once the hack was discovered, the 30,000 were rejected.
In the face of the media firestorm this rejection caused, managing director, Greg Hodge, stood firm about the brand: “We have to stick to our founding principles of only accepting beautiful people – that’s what our members have paid for. We can’t just sweep 30,000 ugly people under the carpet.”
This kind of brutal talk might make public relations crisis people nervous, but it is the absolutely right approach. It shows that beautifulpeople.com knows its Target Market and customers.
In fact, this debacle will only strengthen the brand by assuring its Target Market that the service really is selective. It also plays to human psychology by making the site more exclusive and, hence, more sought after.
Bottom line, while beautifulpeople.com is covering its PR bases by offering counseling to those who were accepted and then rejected, it’s been smart to not give away the farm to those worried about alienating the general public. After all, as with any brand, what the general public thinks is a lot less important than what beautifulpeople’s customers think.
Beautifulpeople.com’s Hodge seems to know just how important this is. Even his apology promotes the exclusivity of the brand. According to the UK’s Guardian: Hodge said he felt “very sorry” for the “unfortunate people who were wrongly admitted to the site and believed, albeit for a short time, that they were beautiful”.
That might rub most of us the wrong way and not make Hodge look like a very nice guy, but the general public just isn’t the Target Market.
And on that score, the website couldn’t have sent a better message for its brand.
NBC’s our loser of the week for its Pledge of Allegiance gaffe during the U.S. Open.
Basically, an otherwise patriotic and moving video montage went off the rails when the producers edited out some key words from the Pledge.
NBC was bombarded with criticism and apologized so fast that they were actually able to get their sorrys in during the same broadcast.
Bottom line, despite the apologies, the damage was done.
What damage? Let’s put it this way, the mainstream media has been under scrutiny for many years now for perceived cultural and political bias. Gone are the days of Walter Cronkite, folks, when people of most political stripes looked up to the man in the anchor seat and the networks in general as purveyors of truth and good judgment.
Even if the words “under God” haven’t always been in the Pledge (they were added in 1954), deciding to edit them out is a huge oversight in the current environment.
Unlike a beautifulpeople.com, NBC is a brand that must worry about conventional PR concerns. NBC’s Target Market is the general public.
That’s why making a mistake like this is so bad and can’t be fixed by an apology. For those viewers who are anti-NBC, this just confirms their position and strengthens the other media brands (NBC’s competitors) that they have turned to; and for those viewers on the fence, this will push them away.
Fact is, it raises a lot of questions about the professionalism and competency at NBC today and in a fractured media environment, where viewers have more choices than ever, this isn’t a mistake that a brand of this standing can afford to make.
Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a brand-killing mistake. With NBC it’s always going to be about the programming in the end. But a mis-step like this could further hurt the news division where editorial bias is a big viewer concern.
And, remember, it’s always easier when you keep marketing and branding in mind.
TODAY’S TANTILLO TAKEAWAY – The only brand messages that count are those that connect with your Target Market.