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Marketing & PR Lessons From the Xiaxue, SingTel & Gushcloud Saga


DollarsAndSense utilize this opportunity to give our readers an insight into how marketing and PR are highly valuable resources for successful individuals and firms.

A little background

In case you didn’t know, Xiaxue, one of the better-known names in the local blogging scene, recently launched a new set of lambasting against blogging agency Gushcloud. Incidentally, or otherwise, Gushcloud happens to be the main competitor of Nuffnang, the agency Xiaxue owns a stake in.

This recent saga surrounds how Gushcloud has been said to be soliciting, via a marketing brief, its bloggers to write negative commentaries and feedback about SingTel’s telecommunications competitors. This, of course, could be looked upon as SingTel utilizing unsavoury tricks to smear its competitors on social media via blogs on Gushcloud’s books. (If by now Gushcloud hasn’t figured it out, there’s definitely a rat within its ranks.)

SingTel have since gone on to deny having anything to do with this seemingly under-handed campaign. We think it is confusing how anyone not related to SingTel would benefit from this campaign and be willing to pay for it or how its marketing team could not have known about this, nevertheless, we can only go on what has been said until further information is presented.

What is marketing?

The activities of a company associated with buying and selling a product or service. It includes advertising, selling and delivering products to people. People who work in marketing departments of companies try to get the attention of target audiences by using slogans, packaging design, celebrity endorsements and general media exposure.

Source: Investopedia

As we can tell, all three entities, SingTel, Gushcloud and Xiaxue stands to benefit from good marketing, and hence, as commercial entities and names, must partake in marketing.

Is the engagement of influencers to smear competitors wrong?

In this particular case, if we assume what Xiaxue has said to be true, we are looking at a form of creative marketing, where a certain firm took free reins to communicate the flaws of its competitor’s product. In politics, we call this a smear campaign. As much as consumers do not like to be misled or be fed partial information through such marketing methods, it has always been and will likely continue to remain a common occurrence in the market.

Many Multinational Corporations have engaged in such form of marketing to disrupt the image of competitors for the longest time. For example, try typing it “ Pepsi Vs Coke” or “ Samsung Vs Apple” and you will get what we mean.

What we are saying is that such a form of marketing is common. We are not saying that it is okay. For consumers, we always suggest fact checking and seeking the experiences of trusted friends before forming a perception of any products or persons. Don’t just rely on one Facebook feed here, or a twitter update there.

SingTel may have denied its involvement with Gushcloud’s apparent smear campaign of its competitor, but even if they were involved, does it really matter? Ultimately, if SingTel doesn’t focus on its own products and services (e.g. the awful Mio TV service), the disrupting effects of its campaigns on its competitors will only be temporary.

SingTel clarifies that it did not issue the brief to smear its competitors.

A few questions run through our minds when we read the statement.

It is to our understanding that for any marketing firm, a brief will usually be sent for the client’s approval to affirm that it is in line with their objectives. The marketing campaign will only start after the client is comfortable with the plan and has given its approval.

In this case, it would be a silly move if Gushcloud deviated from the agreed upon brief, and deliberately spun a different marketing message. Gushcloud are not competitors with M1 or Starhub and thus have nothing to gain, as far as we know. By not following the client’s brief, it would also damage its relationship with its own client, something we do not think Gushcloud would do.

Was SingTel’s marketing department shoddy while reading the brief from Gushcloud and simply approved it without noticing the details? Maybe, but we doubt this is the case as SingTel is a large entity, listed on the exchange and would have known that proof-reading is of paramount importance when communicating information.

If that is not the case, and if SingTel really did not know about this brief, it means SingTel’s marketing department has no control or simply do not care what its own media agencies are doing. Either way, we find this worrisome for SingTel.

Problems with ethics utilizing such forms of marketing

Seeing a commercial of a kid standing on a two cans of Coca Cola to reach a can of Pepsi does not mean that Pepsi is worth two cans of Coca Cola or even that it is better. Consumers know this.

The engagement of celebrity endorsement and vast media exposure are part and parcel of marketing. From whichever angle we look at it, these influencers from Gushcloud smearing the services of Starhub and M1 are just doing their jobs (though some may have exaggerated or gone a little overboard). It is then up to Starhub and M1 to prove them wrong. The rants of these influencers will have little effect on Starhub or M1 if nobody can relate to it, and consequently, the credibility of these influencers will drop.

The irony of smearing your competitors

The irony is smearing your competitors is that your flaws become more pronounced too. So we have seen a massive flood on social media about just how awful Singtel’s services are.

People also dislike the idea of a smear campaign as many times it is done without class and rely on dirty tricks. Thus, the brand which sets out to smear its competitors receive negative returns.

Before we end off this article, we leave you with one question.

It has been said that to run this smear campaign was unethical, but in the same token, is not then unethical to smear competitor firms by leaking private phone conversations, emails and messages of competitor firms to the public?

 

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