Relationship Management In the previous section we tracked the way Lacoste is trying to engage with its present and potential future customers by means of social media. We noticed that, even though Lacoste is currently making use of the main social media platforms, such as Facebook, Google +, Twitter, Flickr and YouTube, the actual approach the firm has been utilizing so far is mainly top-down. Videos, posts and pictures are published abundantly but what is really missing is the interaction between Lacoste and its customers.
What if customers could publish pictures on Lacoste? Flickr to promote social dialogue? Whatever is the reason for this lack of interaction (the firm tends not to reply to customers comments and questions and when it does the time of response is considerable), Lacoste is loosing the opportunity to reinforce its bond with the relevant stakeholders gravitating around the brand. Even though Lacoste’s way has proven to be solid so far, the lack of engagement with the stakeholders may turn out to be detrimental in case of an image crisis and can end up in a severe reputation damage for the firm.
The way Lacoste is managing the relationship with the public in the social media is thus unsatisfying and cannot be limited to ex ante publishing of contents and ex post monitoring of the values associated to the brand by the users. Lacoste is required to participate actively in the co-creation of such values if the goal is to avoid major reputation crisis, for the strongest the bond created between the firm and the community of stakeholders (the reputation) the less damaging the image crisis will reveal.
Creating a good reputation is a precious intangible asset because trust, loyalty and stakeholders’ commitment created through time by the firm will act as a defensive shield against possible threats deriving by sudden changes in the brand image. The effects of cognitive associations to the brand (image), arisen as the result of a path-breaking event and reinforced by the communication in social media, can be decisively smoothed out by a well established good reputation in the community.
Therefore, the need for more social engagement requires the participation in discussions with the stakeholders, which is one fundamental feature of reputation creating. The unwillingness of Lacoste to partecipate in the co-creation of firm values is very well manifested in the corporate blog they are offering at the moment. Lacoste L! ve Blog is basically a collection of posts whose content is really unrelated to the firm’s core business, the result being a very low rate of comments manifesting a lack of interest in this tool of communication.
It is our opinion that blog should be more than another wall where to post random content. Corporate blogs, can be a tool of communication utilized by workers, from top managers to employees, to engage in different kind of relations with the community. Contents should be specifically related to the needs of the public, and the blog would then configure as a benchmark where the company actually talks to the public. In this respect, the provision of a blogging policy could be engineered to allow Lacoste? personnel to enjoy freedom of expression and at the same time to avoid harming the company. This requirement is the first necessary step for Lacoste to ensure a higher degree of engagement, especially in the absence of any other social platforms, i. e. brand communities and brand games. Let? s highlight this last tool. Lacoste is at the moment offering games, which are provided by external sites, such as Lacoste Tennis 75th year by www. mpgamestudio. com.
However, the purpose of the game is somehow limited to the game itself: the player plays tennis against a computer, she doesn? t get to know the values associated with Lacoste and no social interaction takes place. Even though we called it a brand game, Lacoste Tennis 75th year looks like just a game. Besides the marketing purposes that could be associated with this kind of tool (for instance the demonstration of how a product could be used, or the association within the games of the way of living the brand puts forward – see paradiso. avazza. it), the brand game could be a valuable tool for engagement. Users should be able to compete with each other, even with Lacoste? s personnel, and rewards to winners should be supplied at the end of the competition. This would link also very well with the cultural values of Lacoste, for the brand was born within a tennis competition, when a crocodile was first designed on a poloshirt.
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