Media: Russell Davies

Own a brand? Want to scare yourself witless? Go to and type your brand name into the search bar. Three scenarios will present themselves. The first possibility, if you're very lucky, is that your lovely customers will have uploaded tons of video singing your praises and you'll find loads of your own ads. This will be your first big test - are you a Coke or a Mentos? Will you react to people playing with your brand by diving in and letting them do more or by being rather sniffy about it? Not a bad problem to have. Count yourself lucky.

The second, scarier scenario is that those ungrateful bastards who buy your products have filmed wholly unreasonable rants about your product and pasted their poison all over the internet. Or this is how you'll probably feel when you see what's happened.

The blogging/YouTube combination is the most powerful weapon consumers have ever had for pointing out their annoyance with brands. You could look at this as free research, but many brand owners get paralysed by the prospect of unfiltered consumer opinion, unmediated by the soothing tones of a market researcher or the calming curves of a tracking report. Real, live consumer opinion, available to download by millions of people, tends to freak corporations out. My favourite example is Comcast. Their most famous presence on YouTube is video of one of its installers asleep on a customer's couch after he's been on hold for more than an hour with his headquarters, trying to get the customer set-up. Whoops.

How will you react when every vexed customer can film the source of their annoyance and show millions in a couple of clicks? You can record your helpline "for training and monitoring purposes", but are you ready for customers to record your service personnel for complaining and mockery purposes?

But the nightmare scenario is the third one. You type your brand into YouTube and get nothing. Not a single one of your customers, marketing people, nor anyone at your agency, production company or PR supplier thinks anything you've ever produced is worth uploading to YouTube. Millions of clips are uploaded every day and they're apparently all more remarkable than anything your brand has ever done.

You can dismiss the miming kids, angry rants and light-sabre wielding, and, yes, they're kind of dumb. But someone cared enough to upload them and to watch them - is that true for anything you're doing?

Russell Davies is a founder of The Open Intelligence Agency.


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