Binders Full of Women: When a Meme Hijacks Your Brand

During the second Presidential debate this week, it only took a few moments for a social media/community manager named Veronica De Souza to claim the URL bindersfullofwomen.tumblr.com. Not long after, YouTube exploded with parody videos. All of this is to be expected in the increasingly volatile, meme-hungry world we live in.

But at the same time, something started happening that affected more than the Presidential campaign: reviews of binders and trapper-keepers–lots of them–started spreading across retail sites, soon to be shared via Twitter, Facebook and other social tools.

Whatever your politics, the speed of data these days means that companies need to be on the alert not only for anticipated feedback about service and products, but for external factors–often impossible to predict–that can affect their brand, whether positively or negatively. These comments are a good example:

“I’m VERY disappointed in this binder! I had to order it one size larger than I am used to squeezing into – and it looks terrible with my pearls!”

“I’ve done everything I can think of to make this binder comfortable, but it is just too small, even for my delicate frame.”

You get the point. The challenge in this case is that many of these reviews are clever enough to include the product features in a subtle way. As a result, review tools need to include deep enough text analytics and/or human moderation to be able to distinguish legitimate reviews from those intended just for political and/or comic value. Then of course, the question is what to do about it.

I asked Pehr Luedtke, Vice President at Bazaarvoice, whether he had seen this issue arise among his client base, and, if so, what would or could be done. He said:

“We have not had any clients discuss a business impact with us regarding binder reviews. We do use human moderators that moderate content 24×7 to stop irrelevant and fraudulent content from going live on a customer’s site. We also use a fraud platform to detect fraudulent reviews to stop them before they reach our human moderators. At this point in time our fraud platform has not picked up on anything extraneous or irrelevant related to this. However, there could exist certain circumstances in which a customer uses clever wording to make the content relevant. But at this time we have not received any issues from clients regarding the implications of the binder comment on their business.”

Of course, some companies might see this moment as a brand opportunity. My colleague Rebecca Lieb, who covers digital media and advertising, had this to say:

“Binders are top of mind as a result of this speech in a way they probably have never been before and never will be again. So this is an oportunity for brands such as Avery to capitalize on this top-of-mind awareness. They can do this in a way that is thoughtful and based on buidling awareness and telling a story. They can even incorporate the fact that Halloween is coming up and people are already talking about dressing as binders. It’s a way for brands to be relevant in a tongue-in-cheek way.”

Of course, a topic as intrinsically polarizing as politics can be a double-edged sword, so Rebecca cautions that brands also must be aware of and plan for the unintended consequences of their keyword strategies. Witness the following; it’s not possible to tell whether it was intentional or not, or even whether it was based on contextual ad placement (given the likelihood that a company such as Office Max would likely purchase the keyword “binder”) or re-targeting (given that I did search for the word “binders” while preparing to write this post.)

Whatever you think of this or other memes, the “binders full of women” moment has a lot to teach us about the opportunities and perils inherent in digital and social media. Here are some recommendations on what you should take away from the “binders” brouhaha:

  • Make sure you have a process by which you determine what kinds of content you will allow on your site. A terms of use policy is a must-have.
  • If online reviews are important to your business, make sure your reviews solution is sensitive enough–and/or has human moderation–to block undesirable content from your sites, and/or to flag questionable content.
  • Use this experience as a catalyst to review your keyword strategy. If one of your keywords becomes a meme, make sure you control whether and how it appears in your portfolio.

The Internet is fertile ground for the law of unintended consequences, and you can never fully predict what odd confluence of events will affect your brand, intentionally or unintentionally, negatively or positively. Make sure your monitoring, content and ad targeting strategies take this into account, so whatever happens, at least you’re in the know, and in the driver’s seat.

As always, I welcome your comments and contributions.

About susanetlinger

Industry Analyst at Altimeter Group
This entry was posted in Amazon, Crisis, Listening, Sentiment Analysis, Social Analytics, social commerce, Social media, Social Media Risk, VoC. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Binders Full of Women: When a Meme Hijacks Your Brand

  1. So smart, Susan! Loved reading this.

  2. Larry Levy says:

    Susan – We just did this for fun right after the debate – The image itself will make you chuckle… http://www.adotas.com/2012/10/binder-i-hardly-know-her/

  3. Asha, thank you so much! Larry, that’s pretty interesting. The list of influencers is pretty much a crash course in how to play digital offense (I mean that in the sporting sense, not the value judgment sense).

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