Brands Standing On Equal Ground With The Media

Brands Standing On Equal Ground With The Media

Just read this good piece from Jack Marshall of Digiday discussing how brands are using content syndication platforms like Outbrain and Taboola to amplify third party “positive” content.  He explains how McDonald’s bought ads to drive traffic to a positive article written about them in the Huffington Post. This is an excellent example of how converged media is being used to drive awareness about a brand in an attempt to influence or change behavior – the change in this case being that McDonald’s Fish McBites actually taste good.

He goes on to say this.

Users are more likely to be influenced by a New York Times review of a company’s product than by a blog post written by the company itself, the thinking goes.

In most cases, I would tend to agree but there are always exceptions to the rule. In my book I highlight a case study from electric car manufacturer, Tesla Motors.

In February 2013, New York Times reporter John Broder wrote a negative review about his experience driving the Tesla Model S electric vehicle. His article, “Stalled Out on Tesla’s Electric Highway” essentially made accusations that Tesla did not deliver on their brand promise, specifically around car performance and battery life.

It took the CEO of Tesla, Elon Musk about 3 days to respond and basically dismantle the New York Times claim using the actual data from the car driven by Broder.

Fast-forward three days, and the New York Times public editor Margaret Sullivan said that she did find problems with Broder’s note-taking and judgment after his negative review of the Model S. So without specifically apologizing to Tesla Motors, she apologized.

The moral of this story is simple. Five or ten years ago, this would never have happened. Traditionally media companies like the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal have had complete control over the hearts and minds of consumers. They monopolized our attention spans. They dominated the news cycle and could publish anything about any product or service without the worry of a rebuttal on any level. But the evolution, or I should say revolution, in today’s media landscape has changed that, and companies like Tesla Motors are now standing on equal ground with the mainstream media.

Or, shall I say .. they are becoming their own media company. 

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About Michael Brito

Michael Brito has been making things happen online since 1996 with a legit hustle. He gets mad when the 49ers lose, really mad. Feel free to follow him on Twitter.

  • HowieG

    But did your example change the consumer view of Tesla? If not then there is a bigger problem. For McDonald’s everyone knows that mcnuggets taste good but are made of crap. Will the McFish Nuggets be any different? No advertising or media challenge can change reality for consumers.

    And how many people who read the negative article about Tesla knew there was a challenge and admission? As in Politics this stuff happens all the time. People get swiftboated with lies and even after a retraction or proof of falsehood, people remember the negative more than anything.

    Not sure your premise is correct because I bet 99% or more of the time when the media reports something negative they are correct. And you can’t fight the truth unless you change your product, service or business behavior.

    Great example is Chick-Fil-A. Maybe the CEO agreed to stop funding anti-gay hate groups.But I will always view the brand now as a gay hating bigotry driven brand refusing to give them 1 dime. Just because they stop funding these groups doesn’t mean they stop being anti-gay people.

  • Ellie Kesselman

    Of course the media can say what they want in a product review! It is called freedom of the press! It shouldn’t be inaccurate or defamatory, but journalists know that. Elon Musk has a vested interest in portraying his vehicles in a positive manner. A New York Times writer reviews many products and has no monetary interest nor other motivation for giving good, or bad, reviews, merely to be of use to readers. If he reviews inaccurately, he will lose credibility with readers and his editor at the NY Times will be displeased, possibly dismiss him. The benefit of an independent 3rd party press is that the writer’s interests are aligned with the public’s interests.

    Brands are NOT their own media companies! They hire public relations firms, employ advertising and marketing staff to promote their products. If the products/ services are digital, marketing includes SDKs and developer communities, like hobby clubs. This is fine, because there is no misrepresentation. I don’t expect a company representative to say anything negative about his employer’s products.

  • Ellie Kesselman

    HowieG is right. I don’t agree with his personal taste preferences, but I arrive at the same logical conclusion in each case. I like McDonald’s chicken nuggets. That’s because my mother told me they tasted good, else I wouldn’t have tried them. I haven’t read anything negative about them. But fish nuggets? Of course McDonald’s will say they are good. It would take more than that to convince me. I already described my thoughts about the Tesla review in my other comment.

    I agree with Howie, that media reports are likely to be correct most of the time. As for Chick-fil-A, when I was growing up, they would hand out church brochures with the food, or at the door. I’m Jewish. It wasn’t a big deal, but I would rather go to McDonald’s for non-secular chicken nuggets.

  • Warren Whitlock

    All power in the media is derived by them claiming to have integrity. The myth did in the 20th century, when most technology favored the one way, centralized distribution of information.

    Word of mouth, telephone, small groups gathering at the water cooler or BBQ have always trumped the trust of #oldmedia.

    I question the assertion of “equal ground” .. the power of media was a temporary illusion that we let happen

  • Michael Korolishin

    Michael, you don’t happen to use Reddit, do you?

    This type of stuff has been absolutely rampant on there over the past few months. You should take a scroll through the front page sometime and try to spot the corporate ‘advertisements’ :)

    Seriously, if I see another glowing post about Costco on the front page I may just stop using the website.

    Then again, same website where the mods of one of the largest boards were being paid to delete any positive threads about Tesla…