Why your customers love you when you fail

I suppose I’m not alone in recently being invited into people’s living rooms, kitchens, bedrooms, garages etc., via Facebook Live. Most of it has been unintentionally amusing and also made me realise I am a lot better at keeping on top of housework than I thought. In the name of research I watched one for a smallish business and wondered whether this was really helping with their digital strategy. When I met up with them the other day, I realised why it was.

While I was watching, I remember thinking ‘why would any brand owner put themselves through this?’ It wasn’t a simple product demo.  It was fraught with danger: a real high-wire act. I hope they’ll forgive me when I say there was a touch of ‘Acorn Antiques’ (remember that??) about it – as there would be with any production team who weren’t seasoned professional broadcasters. So I was surprised to learn that this was already proving the single most effective digital activity they had done in terms of engagement. There was an audience, there was interaction and ..lo..there were sales!

And then, most importantly there was an epiphany,  unexpectedly arising from an on-screen disaster. Burnt cakes!! Live!! On air!!! But snatching victory from the jaws of defeat as it turned out, the unflappable demonstrator extemporised by explaining how to salvage these burnt offerings, and a whole new avenue opened up right there and then. The wires glowed red hot with appreciative comments. This was clearly a common scenario amongst the viewers and the resonance of the broadcast soared further as it became clear that this was REALLY what folks wanted to know.

It’s rather like a story I heard long ago – pre-social media – from a PR company who handled a turkey producer’s account. They set up and manned (sorry, personned) a telephone hotline on Christmas Eve to help the hapless cook with their turkey trauma and in doing so, saved countless Christmas dinners, reputations  – and maybe even marriages – by focussing not on what goes right, but what to do when it doesn’t.

It’s weird when outtakes and other epic fails are such a big part of general broadcast content today, that brand owners don’t more readily – and seriously – deal with the creek and paddle situation. As my contact put it himself, it did wonders for their brand reputation, affinity and personality simply by being honest and – obviously – authentically knowledgeable.

Yes, we offer helplines and Customer Services and these often deal with the grim reality of life. But embracing the thrill of live performance to a potentially vast audience shows real confidence and the strongest demonstration of authenticity. I would have played safe, videoed it first and left the whole mishap on the cutting room floor. And I would have missed a huge trick. So credit to the brave ones. And maybe have another look at live performance as part of your ‘conversation’?