Those of us that work in digital and social media in the pharmaceutical industry often bemoan the fact that pharma does not get social media and that it could do with learning a thing or two from the FMGC market.  Then again top consumer product brands do not always get it right either!

Generally when people talk about best practice social media it is consumer goods companies that top the league – and understandably so.  After all who really wants to interact with a medicinal product and who feels the same love for a pharma brand than they do for the brand that produces the most divine shoes or chocolate?  Brand loyalty* is faithfulness to a brand and is demonstrated by a commitment to continue using the brand and ideally recommending it to friends.   Social media has changed the dynamics of brand loyalty in that it facilitates communication between the brand and the consumer and in turn the consumer and their friends.  At least this is the theory – my personal experience with consumer goods companies and social media and their ability to communicate took a big dent this week.

I am a massive and very loyal fan of Karen Millen and have been for over ten years.  I am the sort of brand loyal consumer that companies dream of – if I only have budget for one item of clothing it will be from Karen Millen; I rave about Karen Millen both online and offline; I ignore the sales and will buy at full price; I buy from Karen Millen year in year out and I have converted other people into Karen Millen fans.  When I was at business school we were taught to try to nurture and nourish these mega-brand-loyal fans as they are responsible for that marketing gold: word of mouth marketing.  I should add that in pharma we do not even bother dreaming of these types of customers – we will never have them!

Having recently had yet another rather large spending spree at Karen Millen (which also led to much raving about the fabulous customer service at the store and how wonderful Karen Millen is) I was devastated when my adorable new red shoes broke.  They were clearly faulty (I had hardly worn them) but I understood that these things happen and it was obviously just bad luck.  I therefore sent Karen Millen an email explaining the issue – stressing that I was a huge fan and that as I lived in Switzerland I was not in a position to take the shoes back to the store.  I did not expect an immediate response but just to speed things up I posted on the Karen Millen Facebook page – posting a picture of the broken shoes.  I received a response to the post asking me to email the customer service team (although they did not bother to provide the email address – I was expected to find that myself).


One week later – no response to my email.  I therefore re-sent the email and returned to the Facebook page.  It turns out that they had obviously not been happy to have my complaint on the wall as it had been deleted – but now they had also disabled the ability for customers to post photos on the wall.  I therefore posted again – and a I also posted on the customer care tab on the page.  Other people added comments to my post.  Still no response.  I tweeted about the issue.  Still no response.

It is obvious that Karen Millen does not monitor their social media presences that regularly – which anyone working in social media will tell you is a risky thing to do as issues can escalate very quickly on social media.  I remember all the furore when Sanofi responded badly to a similar issue on their Voices page – but that was a pharma company and almost expected.  This is a quality, supposedly well respected clothing company!

Whilst we still may have low expectations when it comes to customer service and social media prowess from pharma companies, it is a very different matter when it comes to our expectations from consumer goods companies.

This incident has made me realise that whilst pharma may be bad at social media at least they have an “excuse” – what is Karen Millen’s excuse?

*Brand loyalty in pharma is called adherence and has got very little to do with love of the brand.


Addendum: I eventually got a full refund for the shoes and a very pleasant apology from Karen Millen.  Social Media does pay off!

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