Should a brand ever open itself up to criticism on its own platform? The Marketing Society Forum

Loan provider Wonga.com has set up a digital platform to engage its critics.

YES - KRISTOF FAHY, CHIEF MARKETING OFFICER, WILLIAM HILL

Brands should have enough confidence in what they do and how they do it to take criticism on the chin. To facilitate that debate on your own platform demonstrates confidence in what you do and how you do it. In fact, why wouldn't you?

The choice is simple: let that debate take place where you can respond and be seen to be open, or let it take place on other platforms where it can quickly be blown out of all proportion because there is no response from the brand.

Yes, there will be opinions that are verging on crazy - the joys of public debate - but the opportunity for a brand to interact with customers in a transparent way has to be the way forward.

YES - MATT WILLIFER, EXECUTIVE PLANNING DIRECTOR, WCRS

Yes, but not as a matter of principle. If there is a way of successfully deflecting criticism, then it is counterintuitive to use your own platforms to provide unnecessary amplification.

However, in instances where consumers will stumble upon criticism anyway, there is a case for bringing it within your own platform: forums where the brand is not only clearly (and admirably) acknowledging criticism, but has a clear right of reply (whether to argue the toss or offer redress).

In a world where openness is increasingly important, brands that use their platforms to allow criticism are clearly true to these values; while such criticism will not be an aim of an open brand, it will frequently be a byproduct.

YES - NATALIE COWEN, HEAD OF BRAND AND COMMUNICATIONS, FIRST DIRECT

Honesty and openness always win when it comes to engaging with people, and if your brand is being criticised for something, by acknowledging it, you demonstrate that you want to do something about it.

The crucial bit is to listen and act on the feedback, whether that's protecting a product or service your customers love, or fixing something that they hate. If you don't react, then you are in danger of being a punchbag, and compounding the negativity.

Authenticity is key - if you're creating a platform that allows for open comments, then any hint that it is being manipulated in some way will do the exact opposite of what you originally set out to do.

NO - VIKI COOKE, CO-FOUNDER, BRITAINTHINKS

Trust is the central issue here. If the brand takes editorial control, it lacks credibility; if 'control' is left with participants, then the site is likely to be hijacked by the most ardent critics. Either way, it won't improve the quality of debate or reflect the broadest range of perspectives.

Of course it is important for brands to understand what their critics are saying and develop the most appropriate messages to respond - but there are better ways to achieve this.


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