What do you do when parody strikes your company?

I posted yesterday about the unfortunate circumstance that Domino’s Pizza found itself in having been the subject of a horrendously inappropriate ‘prank’ video that will likely cost them millions of dollars in lost revenue and PR fees. While Domino’s acted quickly and dealt with the issue head on it is less clear how a business should respond if they are the victim of something more subtle – the parody video. 

Microsoft found itself the victim of a very well produced parody video that took a shot at the marketing video they had created  to promote their new Surface technology. Microsoft’s video was very well produced, the subject matter was fascinating and it positioned Microsoft as leading a new generation of communication and interactive technology. The video received over 2 million views on YouTube. A success by any measure… that is until the good folks at Sarcastic Gamer created their own version of the video that closes with the delicously sarcastic line “The future is here, and it’s a big-ass table… take that Apple!” Ouch.

To add insult to injury the parody video has received more views than Microsoft’s original video. Double ouch.

When I originally viewed the Microsoft video my first thought was ‘cool.’ Months later when I saw the parody video I have to admit I did revisit the rationale for my first impressions. The parody video did an excellent job at turning many of the purported benefits into something much less, even to the point of causing some of those benefits to now appear trivial or even counter-intuitive.

I’ll assume that Google or Apple or Dell or… whoever, didn’t pay Sarcastic Gamer to produce the video to ridicule their competition. (Would it surprise you if they had?) You can’t anticipate where or why these things will happen, but you do have to be aware of the possibility and think through how your company should respond.

So what do you do when parody strikes your company? Stick to your guns and continue to make your case clearly and positively without letting your detractors set the communications agenda? Or do face the issue head on and deal with it as a serious and competitive threat that could have an immediate and significant effect on your brand?

There was no grey zone in Domino’s response to the prank video. They had to act. That said, the line between prank and parody can be rather fuzzy. This is new territory for most companies. The ability of a single individual (or group) to affect a company’s brand has never been greater. That should be a huge wake-up call.

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