Soundview Executive Book Summaries


Commercial Controversy and Addressing Your Audience

The fallout from the Groupon Super Bowl commercial controversy continues to evolve. According to The New York Times, the ads, which attempted to parody celebrity-led charity efforts, have been revised to now include a Web address where visitors can make contributions to help actual causes. This subtle switch came on the heels of public outcry over the perceived insensitivity of Groupon toward charitable causes.

There are two aspects of this controversy that interest me. The first is that Groupon, while not the first, is another organization to yield to the power of what can best be described as a “Tweetstorm.” Several business book authors have written about this concept, but it’s worth repeating that businesses need to be aware of the rate at which a problem can gain momentum. The analogy of a snowball rolling down a hill, increasing in size the entire time, is perhaps best replaced by the image of a volcano whose ash cloud envelops the sky within minutes while lava rolls across the continent. Whether you’re on the ground or in the air, you’ve got serious problems.

The other interesting item from the Groupon ad fallout is the reaction of the company’s CEO, Andrew Mason. Within hours of the conclusion of the Super Bowl, Mason posted on the Groupon corporate blog and attempted to quell some of the furor. This reminded me of author Charlene Li’s profile of computer manufacturer Dell and its efforts to directly engage with its customers. In her book Open Leadership: How Social Technology Can Transform the Way You Lead, Li points out that a leader’s willingness to embrace the technology and use it to be more open can turn even the most dissatisfied customer into an advocate. Debate continues as to whether the commercial controversy will ultimately hurt Groupon, but Mason did his part to turn the tide.

If you want to learn more about Li’s exploration of social technology and its leadership applications, check out Soundview’s summary of Open Leadership. For more great executive book summaries, visit Soundview online at Summary.com.

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