Listening to Customers, Not “Bowing to Pressure”

    August 30, 2007

From a business standpoint, one of the critical advantages social media bring to the table is the ability to tap into what important segments of the population are thinking. GM Vice Chairman Bob Lutz, for example, is on the record claiming that the Fastlane blog has provided him with better intelligence than any traditional form of market research.

So now comes the widely reported story of Cadbury, which is bringing back its Wispa candy bar. The decision was prompted by a variety of online intelligence, including multiple petitions and Facebook groups (shown below) which, cumulatively, provided Cadbury with evidence that there was enough of a market to justify re-launching the candy bar. That evidence most likely wasn’t available through more traditional research techniques. Cadbury has stated explicitly that this was the first time “that the power of the Internet played such an intrinsic role in the return of a Cadbury brand.”




So how have most of the media positioned Cadbury’s decision? The typical headline proclaims that Cadbury “bowed to pressure.” (Examples here, here, and here.)

This characterization really cheeses me off. Here is an organization that is paying attention to the social media space in order to be more directly connected to its customers. The company listened and acted based on what it heard. That’s engagement, not capitulation. Time’s decision to continue publishing Business 2.0 while looking for a buyer—rather than simply suspending publication, as was originally planned—also was prompted by a Facebook group. Again, that was an act of listening, not bowing to pressure.

If more companies “bowed to pressure” like Cadbury and Time, customers would be a happier lot.