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HMV social suicide is a wake up call to consultants and marketing grand fromages


By Andy Barr, Head Yeti

February 1, 2013 | 6 min read

This week was going to be all about Blackberry, a brand that I have knocked on these here pages in the past but who, ultimately, I love because they are the only mobile device I have used where the email has just worked without issues.

HMV has made a dog's dinner of social media

With their big fanfare launch this week, it now looks like they are at the top end of the bath, rather than swirling around the plughole as they have been for the past year of so.

The goings on at HMV though, specifically the social media suicide that happened yesterday, means that praise for the Blackberry PR team has been massively reduced in my column (but well done everyone involved).

All I will say is, from a PR perspective, a huge amount of kudos, especially in the face of adversity - i.e. a cynical tech world and a BBC interview that was clearly set up with an attack agenda in mind from the outset.

Moving on to HMV, the details of what has happened have been plastered over every newspaper and social media news site, so there is no need for me to go into the narrative.

I have two main observations about what has happened and I am going to tell you whether you like it or not.

The first is that I find it staggering that in this day and age, such senior level marketing managers do not feel that social media delivers such a return that they can be bothered to take it seriously.

Well, let me rephrase that. Not being bothered to take it seriously is probably a bit harsh; maybe cannot be bothered to get a basic understanding of how the platforms work, not even from a personal point of view it seems.

Drilling down, and giving it thought, this is another reason why HMV found itself in trouble: they didn’t move with modern times and clearly did not give social media any value. They seemingly packed it with interns and let them roam free without setting any safety checks in place.

Secondly, I think the HMV situation highlights that the bulldozer approach of administrators and consultants, parachuted in to try and rescue/sell off or shut down a brand, needs to be reviewed and more thought out in terms of how they manage certain situations.

I am not naming the consultants in the HMV case because I know from my own experiences of working with that sector in general that they go down the sue-y route of protecting their reputations.

We all know that the administrators and co have to move quickly to manage a failing situation but normal working practices should not be ignored and the high fees that they command means that they should work all hours to get the right processes in place.

Having worked for global companies I have had the misfortune of having to be involved in announcements where entire departments or divisions were being made redundant or sold.

The amount of work and effort that goes into making sure that the employees affected have the immediate support that they need, along with protecting the company from rogue announcements or reactions is thorough to the point of obsession.

I don’t think administrators get this, they certainly don’t look at the potential impact of their actions on the brand that they are trying to save. Did the HMV consultants seek advice on the brand/marketing and communications implications of their planned announcement?

HMV has had serious brand damage from yesterday’s activity. They will make up 90 per cent of every social media and PR knobbers’ (of which I am one) oh so trendy slideshare presentation on social media fails for the next few years - well, until the next one comes along.

The search engines will be filled with high-ranking blogs and articles detailing what they have done, something, should the brand survive, they will struggle to move down the rankings.

Finally, it could actually put off any wider groups that were thinking of joining the current suitor for taking them on. For example, I doubt Peter Jones would have been bothered to secure the rights to the Jessops brand had it suffered such long-term brand damage in the immediate aftermath of its demise.

Finally finally, to the person who did the rogue tweeting and claims (so the Telegraph would have us believe) that she has been inundated with job offers...

I would guess that they will be stunt-related and any credible social and marketing brand with common sense will steer clear.

That being said, of course, what happened to them was horrible and having been made redundant and (oops) actually fired from big companies in the past I can sympathise with what went on. But the question remains, would I have done the same though?


So whilst the lefties rave about what a great thing was done to stick it to the man, I imagine agency heads everywhere have noted down that person’s name as one to maybe avoid.

Wow, that was a deep one this week. Keen to get your thoughts on how wrong I am.

Andy runs 10, an online public relations agency. Got any PR gossip, give him a shout on or on Twitter @10Yetis.


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