So the good guys at Reddit found that someone from Flipkart ordered from Amazon and posted a pic.

 

Some over-enthusiastic person at Flipkart, manning their Twitter handle couldn’t let go of the opportunity and offered this retort.

Flipkart 2

Others egged Amazon and I was ransacking my brain on what their comeback would be… if it’d as abrasive as Flipkart’s swagger, or something more tame.

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They did come back and it was very, very mature – something you’d expect from the more senior player!

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This tone perhaps helped Flipkart look at things differently too and they toned down too!

Flipkart 1

Now, I’m not implying that Flipkart’s response was ‘wrong’. There’s no wrong or right, in general, in such scenarios – even if there was, it is usually decided by a lot of people taking sides, not by any higher authority.

Also, Flipkart’s swagger may seem particularly appealing to a specific target segment that appreciates that level of bravado from companies. The more mature, world-weary/world-aware bunch may see it as something that will bite them back when the chips are down. And we do know that the chips are down even for the best of them out there, from time to time.

The counter argument to that is, would you forego the opportunity to offer a smart-aleck comeback that puts down a competitor because you are focused on your brand’s long-term reputation?

Let’s see it from this perspective – would Flipkart’s CEO say that, when asked, in a press interview, on record? I’d assume he wouldn’t. Would Flipkart release a paid advertisement to this effect? Again, I’d assume they wouldn’t.

So, why is a Twitter retort any different? Because it isn’t streamed through their PR (media interview) or marketing (paid advertising) team? Or, is it because things on Twitter are generally seen as more ephemeral and assumed to be the ‘this too shall pass’ variety, given the amount of things that occupy people’s attention minute after minute?

Interestingly, while attention span on social media is deemed to be short, things are a bit too permanent on social media too. People dig up old tweets and posts to connect with topical events and keep things alive. For context, see the 100 Hours of Fame (vs. 15 minutes of fame) post of mine.

Here’s another case – HP poking fun at Lenovo’s Superfish imbroglio, on Twitter. I’m not sure if HP’s going to take ads to this effect, or if HP’s CEO will make a similar comment about HP not doing a ‘Superfish’, this openly.

HP

The last time a CEO did say something damaging about a competitor in recent times, the aggrieved brand rejected the apology. I’m referring to Delta Air Lines CEO Richard Anderson who said, when asked about claims that bankruptcy protection for U.S. airlines should be seen as government assistance: “It’s a great irony to have the UAE from the Arabian Peninsula talk about that, given the fact that our industry was really shocked by the terrorism of 9/11, which came from terrorists from the Arabian Peninsula”.

This was not a tweet or a paid ad, but a response to a question from the media. And – understandably – Emirates was livid and rejected Delta PR team’s apology outright.

As with everything on social media, I’m sure HP’s tweet will also be stored for posterity and appended to every single issue on HP with a, ‘…but you behaved like this, remember?’. Is that something HP thinks is manageable? If they had planned it that way – good luck to them. If that was overlooked, I hope they do plan for that contingency, because to expect HP to *never ever* goof up in the future seems like a stretch. Not just HP… any company, for that matter.

I believe it is better to treat every stakeholder with respect and caution than repent later for that one moment of indiscretion that comes to haunt your brand every time your brand goofs up. Isn’t that something we advice people too, before they post some really embarrassing weekend binge on Facebook?

The original post was published here.

Author Bio: Karthik Srinivasan is a communications professional with over 15 years’ experience across client and agency environments. He has led PR, digital and social media mandates for brands like Intel, Lenovo, ARM, Cisco, General Motors, BlackBerry, LinkedIn and Infosys, among others. He currently heads the social media practice at Ogilvy & Mather India. An avid blogger, Karthik’s two music-related blogs (http://www.itwofs.com and http://www.milliblog.com) that he has been managing for over a decade, are very popular among Indian music aficionados. Karthik’s third blog – http://www.beastoftraal/ – is one of the leading blogs in India on the intersection of PR, marketing and all things social+digital.