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Awash in Data: How To Discern The Signal From The Noise

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We can understand that taking a contrarian point of view on a hot-button issue is one way to get attention, but a recent blog post on Mashable from Shiv Singh, VP & Global Social Media Lead at Razorfish really takes the cake.

Titled, “Could the Toyota Recall Crisis be Helping the Brand?” Singh cites data from monitoring company Radian6 that shows Toyota’s brand sentiment actually experienced a slight uptick in January. He writes:

How can the Toyota recall be helping the brand? There are two answers for this. The first is that the increased number of conversations about Toyota are building greater awareness for the brand even though many of the mentions may be negative.

Let us point out just a few reasons why this thinking doesn’t make sense.


“I think he is blinded by numbers,” said John Bell, President of the Board of Word of the Mouth Marketing Association and Managing Director, Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide in an email to PRNewser.

“Reputation is more than awareness and I would argue that Toyota had complete awareness well before this crisis. They didn’t need awareness, especially this kind. The word of mouth on Toyota is a lot of re-tweets of negative headlines and comments on the business side. It is not good for the brand.”

While many crisis PR executives we’ve spoke with agree that Toyota is not in need of brand awareness, especially of this kind, Singh continues:

But they [Toyota] also have to start talking to consumers more directly on the social web. So far, it seems that their responses have appeared a little slow and clumsy.

Of course, when you’re selling hammers, everything seems like a nail. So we’re not entirely surprised that the Global Social Media Lead at a major agency would recommend more social media activity now, even though the brand should have been building its presence in social media before it needed to. Also, why should Toyota be more active in social media? How would you sell it to the brand? This is not to mention potential criminal and securities investigations that could limit Toyota’s social outreach.

Astonishingly, based off one data set from Radian6, Singh concludes “there hasn’t been significant short-term damage to the Toyota brand on the social web, at least relative to its direct competitors.”

This despite Radian6 sentiment analysis “is at best 60% accurate” said Susan Etlinger, Senior Vice President at tech PR firm Horn Group.

“You’ve got to think that at least 50% of the discussion will be rated ‘neutral’ by Radian6,” she said, which severely impacts Singh’s entire thesis.

To top it off, Toyota’s own ad agency even told the brand to stop advertising.

In addition, YouGov’s BrandIndex, a daily consumer perception research service of brands, interviewing 5,000 people each weekday from a representative US population sample, shows a sharp drop in Toyota’s brand health indicator score.

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The Toyota recall news began to gain traction around January 21st. The Mashable analysis is based on month old data, and two-thirds of January occurred prior to the recall.

As Bell told PRNewser, “I do not think Shiv’s observations are sound and perhaps this shows the orientation of an impression-focused ad-man versus a communications point of view that understands reputation management.”

[Disclosure: This PRNewser previously worked at Horn Group.]

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