Astroturfing and brand managers, brand managers and internet manipulation : current situation, advice and prospective
Date of Issue2008
College of Business (Nanyang Business School)
There has been exponential growth in the development of online information in the last decade. However, this information is neither bound to traditional press websites anymore nor it is uploaded by professional journalists with adequate formation and ethical principles. More often than not, information becomes disinformation which sometimes turns into manipulation. Businesses are now more than ever concerned by the threat of falling victim to a denigration campaign launched on the Internet by anonymous competitors or anonymous groups of individuals. The breakthroughs of word-of-mouth information manipulation is spotted. One of their most valuable assets, the reputation of their brand, is at stake. This report started with the intuition that Brand Managers are the most suited to do the job: brand management should involve brand protection management. This intuition was confirmed by the interviews we conducted with Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) Brand Managers. Indeed, upon hearing their own experience and arguments, we identified two main reasons for this to happen. First, Brand Managers are the ones who best know their brands and products and thus are most likely to interact productively and reactively with customers. The second reason is that, at least in the FMCG corporations, there often seems to be no well-identified service clearly responsible for monitoring online brand information and reputation. Given the importance that the Internet has taken, this situation appears to be unsustainable. Someone has to be put in charge.