Do Social Media Scandals Affect Consumer Buying Behaviour?

Sneha Sharma
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social media mistake

Everything that the customer sees, listens, absorbs, and observes influences his buying behaviour. With the dawn of social media, all the brands have come very close to the customer. Today, every action has an equal or sometimes way bigger reaction.

Thus, every small move, word uttered or task planned should be well thought off. Otherwise, things can easily go out of hand and the brand could be involved in a social media scandal.

Social media scandals are never pleasant, nor for the brand or the consumer. Though, the interesting thing to find out is whether these brand related scandals affect the customer buying behaviour? Starting with the case of 7UP #IFeelUp social media scandal, let’s have a look at some cases and find out the answer.

When the soft drink giant Pepsico's 7UP underwent a re-branding, for digital promotion they tied up with The Viewspaper. The idea was to have a nonstop Twitter chat for 72 hours on social issues. Picture source is the website of the conference. Check the site here.


It was a subtle brand promotion activity for which they approached influential names on Twitter. Normally, this would have been a good case study on digital promotion had the planners not goofed up. Instead of being open about the brand promotion activity, the Twitterati was not informed about the link between Social issue chat by the viewspaper and 7UP.

Whether it was intentional or genuine mistake that is discussed here but the Twitterati felt cheated for they were involved in a brand promotion activity without being aware of it. Result - #IFeelUp hashtag was the involved in a huge social media scandal with Twitterati lashing out on them openly.


Consumer buying behaviour

Tweet source: Do you feel up or let down

Being a fast moving beverage product, we wonder how much this goof up would affect the customer buying behaviour. The promotion activity went against them but is the product being bought less?

 The other recent social media scandal shows how Dominoes India was not secured online and thus faced a hijack. When Dominoes India recently started their 'Online Booking' service, digitally, it was warmly welcomed. However, the happy bubble was burst one fine day when a small known Turkish group hacked their website.

The information of their customer database was exposed and posted on many blogs. Dominoes India must have had a secure system but hijack of customer’s personal details was a huge blow. After this glitch, would people still trust their details with the 'Online Booking' system? Would the customer's buying behaviour change now?

Last but not the least is the latest social media scandal of Volkswagen India. It came up with an interesting and clutter breaking print ad. The print ad instantly created buzz in the social media space. Though, as with any path breaking idea, this one also faced mixed reviews.

While one section went gaga over it, others made fun of it. With the legacy and experience attached with the name of Volkswagen India, it is expected for them to be ready for handling the mixed response from the audience. Read more about the case here. Unfortunately, Volkswagen India got caught in a social media scandal with this tweet


Tweet source: @Saffrontrail

In case, they had chosen good humor and wit over dry and rude tone, this episode would not have gone off the track. A social media scandal could have been averted.

Their tweet was definitely in bad sense, sexist and cheap. A credible, trustworthy and well known brand is expected to handle such situations with finesse and not crude remarks. They did apologize but did not take the blame and that really pissed off the digital audience more.

volkswagen twitter

Given that majority of the crowd on Twitter is not their audience and this may have influenced them to take this matter lightly but enough of their target audience is on Twitter to watch the drama. Being a high end product that talks about quality and credibility, would it affect the consumer buying behaviour after this episode?

This is what some influential tweeps think,

bobin james twitterBobin James, a music writer and photographer’ isn’t happy with Volkswagen India’s approach. Their vanishing act, not tweeting post the scandal, and hoping that invisibility erases memory does not hit a right note with him.

Bobin’s buying choices are hardly influenced by social communication unless it is a brand like Flipkart that resides online.

Though if the scandal is beyond minor goof ups, then it might make him ponder. However, utility and quality matter more to him. According to him, the intent of the brand is very important. Mistakes (like in the Volkswagen case) can be forgiven though not the intent.

Nevertheless, that doesn't give the brand freedom to go light on social communication. He feels, if a brand has committed a mistake, for its own best interests it should apologize. Acknowledging the mistake, owning the blame and making up for the mistake is the best approach.

Madhuri banerjee

For Madhuri Banerjee (Author/ Asian Age Columnist/ Script Writer/ IBN Blogger), product reviews matter more than social communication. She would rethink her decision if it is a food and beverage brand and the social media scandal is due to a fault in the product (not communication).

In her opinion, the post -scandal mantra should be - “Fix the problem!” Do what is possible for a brand - address all the issues from people, call a press conference, face the bitter and hard questions, offer freebies, discounts, vouchers and much more but don’t remain mute and ignore the problem. Take lessons from the scandal and become better is the best approach.

The questions are now passed over to you and you need to help us with your opinions. Among these three cases, we have covered the majority of the Twitter audience. We now want you to share with us as to what you would do. Ponder or not, pick your method of thinking and reply/comment/tweet back to us.

Would your buying behaviour change post knowing the social media scandal associated with brands?

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