“Who dat? Who dat? Who dat say dey gonna beat dem Saints?”
Superbowl weekend ahead and the New Orleans Saints finally made it to the big game. The French Quarter is preparing for one of the biggest parties ever. New Orleans is going wild. And Saints fans around the world won’t stop singing their signature chant: “Who Dat?”
The only side trying to spoil the party except for the Indianapolis Colts – the Saints’ Superbowl opponents – ironically is the NFL itself. The league organization claimed a trademark infringement when some T-Shirt producers started selling “Who Dat?” shirts.
Saint fans took it personal. For them “Who Dat?” is in the public domain, they don’t believe their motto can be owned by anyone.
The NFL actually shared that opinion as they only claimed their rights for T-Shirts carrying both the “Who Dat?” and the Saints logo, which the NFL actually owns. Legally they may be right. But in a world of Twitter and Facebook, information flows too fast, opinions are created too fast and people with the same opinion group themselves way too fast to be ignored.
Thousands of Saints fans complained, blogs and newssite reported the story all over, even the two competitors in the 2010 Louisiana Senate Race, Republican senator David Vitter and Democratic congressman Charlie Melancon, took the opportunity to use the topic for their campaigns and weighted in.
What started as a small complaint of the NFL against a handful of T-Shirt vendors ended as an image disaster.
It’s not the first time a story like this has happened (for a quite extensive list of companies that underestimated the power of social media see Jeremiah Owyang’s blog). Why don’t companies just get it? It’s not about being right or wrong. Perception is reality in a media driven world. You will never be able to catch up with the dynamic of a social media wave once it has been kicked off. An old dutch proverb nails it: Who seeds wind will harvest storm.
I know that many people in the companies’ legal units do not have a lot of contact with social media (how many lawyers running a companies Twitter account do you know?). The problem is: It has a huge impact on their job. While a few years ago all they had to do was to fight for the companies rights, today a big decision has to be taken before going for it: Is it worth it? What’s the potential reaction going to be? How much brand value are we risking? What’s the chance/risk tradeoff?
What a dilemma, as the people in place to take that decision often don’t even know a decision has to be taken.
It’s time to change your internal processes. Before claiming your right, bring in branding experts and, even more important, bring in social media experts.
You think you don’t have them? You sure do! They are anywhere. All you have to do it to find them. How to do it? Well, maybe social media can be a good starting point…
Who Dat say dey gonna beat social media?
Have a great Superbowl weekend!