Does Social Media Work Best as a Band-Aid?

In a recent Buzz Bin post, Priya Ramesh notes:

As I continue to convince the C-Suite at client companies to trust in social media, I find that it’s an easier sell when the company is struggling to fight a negative image online.

This makes sense. Like people, brands are always concerned about fixing problems after those problems occur, not beforehand. (The school of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” is also why preventative health care and preventative car maintenance often seem like luxuries, rather than logical necessities.)

Consider the case of Old Spice, which has received scads of glowing social media coverage over their customized YouTube outreach campaign.

Yes, the Old Spice ads are funny. And yes, Isaiah Mustafah (the new face of Old Spice) deserves all the accolades currently coming his way.

But we wouldn’t be talking about Old Spice at all if they didn’t have an image problem in the first place.

Old Spice has been perpetually seen as “your father’s deodorant” (or “your grandfather’s deodorant,” or however far back you’d like to go). It’s never been considered contemporary, and that anachronism was part of its charm. But it’s hard to sell “traditional” to a plugged-in, post-modern audience. So Old Spice revitalized their image.

Will seeing Old Spice as crisp, clean, adventurous and unstoppably witty help sell more sticks of deodorant? If so, then all this rebranding — and their investment in social media — will have paid off. And it’s hard to argue against the idea, since simply running in place is almost never a brand’s wisest option.

But this also raises a question of intention.

Because if the social media campaigns that garner the most attention are those that update outmoded brand images, repair PR problems and revitalize aging assets, maybe companies should be striving to generate their own “bad image” crises.

Because then they’re guaranteed to garner attention for engineering their own “new and improved” turnaround.

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