Last month, Ecover (our client) had an unusual problem. A UK consumer magazine named Which? alleged that several “green” household cleaners were fabricating (or “greenwashing”) their claims. Ecover was one of the brands named in the report, which was published in The Guardian, creating a maelstrom of public opinion.
But there was one problem with the article: in Ecover’s eyes, the methodology that Which? used to create the report was flawed, erroneous and misinformed — and now it was being reported as a verifiable truth.
Ecover responded with a full rebuttal of Which?’s claims, including a direct statement from Ecover’s CEO, Mick Bremans. And while the tempest appeared to subside, we at Creative Concepts helped Ecover remain vigilant for continued mentions of the report across all of its web channels.
When one Twitter user, Jane C Woods, tweeted a link to the Guardian’s article, Ecover’s Kipling Wagner noticed and responded by sending Jane a link to Ecover’s rebuttal. Afterward, Jane — who’s an Ecover customer in the UK — took the opportunity to ask Kipling a question about a problem she was having with her dishwasher, which she believed may have been caused by Ecover’s dishwashing products. Kipling and Jane each researched the issue — Kipling within Ecover, and Jane with her repairman — and each came to a similar conclusion, with steps to remedy the situation.
We (CC) asked Kipling and Jane about their discussion on Twitter, and here’s what they had to say.
Kipling Wagner, Assistant Marketing Manager and Brand Activator at Ecover, Inc
CC: How did you first discover Jane’s tweet re: the Which? article?
KW: I saw Jane’s tweet through my monitoring alerts on Tweetdeck.
CC: Why did you feel compelled to share Ecover’s rebuttal with her directly?
KW: I felt compelled to share it with her directly because of a combination of details. I looked at her other tweets to gauge what type of twitterer she is (was she sending out quality messages? Interacting with people positively? Was she influencing others? All of which she seemed to be). I also noticed that someone had thanked her for sharing the original Which? article, and this alarmed me because I knew this article was gaining momentum virally. If people were looking to her tweets for trustworthy information, I knew I had to share our side.
CC: How did you go about investigating her question re: her dishwashing issue?
KW: She replied to me, thanking me for the Which? article clarification, and then followed it with a product question. I was reluctant to answer because she is in the UK and we’re in the US, and I was worried about the invisible boundaries and crossing lines within our own company. Now I was interacting with a UK consumer, not just a UK tweeter. First, I let her know I had seen her question, and then I sent an email to our communications department to confirm with them my suspicions on why she was having said issue. Once they got back to me, I let her know the verdict.
CC: How do you feel about the exchange thus far? How has it been beneficial to you / Ecover?
KW: Absolutely beneficial. Although she’s way over in the UK, the boundaries on the web are non-existent. It’s important that we’re able to take a potentially negative situation – spreading of an inaccurate depiction of Ecover through questionable journalism – and turn it into an informed and positive exchange. Also, Ecover is very focused on being honest and transparent, so having the (new) ability, thanks to Twitter, to talk to someone about their concerns (like the Which? article) and then wind up resolving a product issue is priceless. I value that Twitter allows us to do all of this with our audience. It’s like “super practice” for those of us in marketing to be able to work out issues with our consumers, all under the watchful eye of others; we learn more about our own company and products and our consumers at the same time. It’s very rewarding.
Jane C Woods, Personal Development Specialist for Women
CC: How did you originally come across the Which? report?
JW: I am a regular subscriber to Which?.
CC: Were you surprised when Kipling contacted you with Ecover’s response?
JW: Very surprised. Initially, it ‘freaked’ me a bit, as it felt a tad ‘big brotherish;’ but then I realised that all big companies keep an eye out for discussion of their products.
CC: How did Ecover’s rebuttal change your opinion of the Which? report (if at all)?
JW: It didn’t really. Although I guess I would agree that the Which? report hadn’t gone into huge amounts of detail. I had had a problem with Ecover for a while in that my machine does get gummed up. Repairman said it’s a common problem with Ecover type products, and I also had to put some cleaning fluid through my machine… which kind of defeats the object doesn’t it?
CC: Was Kipling’s advice about your dishwasher problem helpful?
JW: Yes, in that it was the same advice as given by the repairman, i.e., run a very hot wash now and again, and run it empty. I do leave the drawer open, but I’m not convinced that will help.
CC: Do you frequently engage with businesses on Twitter? Do you find these kinds of digital interactions beneficial?
JW: Yes, often. I also tend to use Twitter to promote my business. It’s very helpful and it encourages me to buy from companies I have tweeted!
Considering Jane’s ongoing concerns about her dishwasher, we expect more discussions between Kipling and Jane — and between Ecover and their growing international customer base — in the future.
After all, every problem has a solution, and those solutions almost always involve a conversation.
Is your business talking — and listening — to customers?