The NYPD made headlines for all the wrong reasons. On Tuesday it tweeted out a call for photos of people along with police officers, using the hashtag #myNYPD. The photos could be featured on the police Facebook page, which was the intention behind the request.
Not surprisingly, the hashtag was shortly hijacked, by people tweeting photos of alleged police brutality.
The NYPD is just the latest in a list of companies and organizations that have created hashtags for positive branding purposes that have quickly been hijacked by negative and snarky comments. Recently McDonald’s made waves with its #McDStories hashtag that resulted in people complaining about the company and its food. Mashable has a list of similar hijacking here.
There’s an important lesson we can learn from all of this, and that’s knowing what your brand perception is. Each of these brands and organizations have created tone deaf hashtags, seemingly oblivious to how they are perceived by the general public.
It’s critical to understand how your brand is perceived. As an organization it’s important to survey your customers and prospects on an annual basis to learn what they value and what they think of your brand. If there’s a significant amount of negative feelings, then the first step is to address these issues, not avoid them. The brands with a positive perception are ones that are adapting to the changing values in our society.