Tag Archives: branding

Avoiding Brand Confusion on Social Media

If you go to Facebook and you run a search for “Thai Airways,” you get a search results page like you see in the screenshot immediately below. Which one of the multiple Fan Pages listed there is the official Thai Airways Fan Page? Is there one? Is there more than one?

This situation highlights one of the most common problems facing brands in social media today: Avoiding brand confusion and keeping control of your brand. Though this problem is in no way unique to Facebook, let’s look at the situation facing Thai Airways as an example.

In the early days of Facebook it was possible for anyone to create a Fan Page using a brand name. Last year, Facebook (finally) recognized that allowing people to create unauthorized pages using other peoples’ brands was not an acceptable practice and they took steps to reduce the problem. (Very small steps, but steps nonetheless!) The first, and arguably least effective, approach was to add a disclaimer and have users certify that they had the authority / right / permission to create the page using the brand name. Facebook did not, however, go back to the people who had already created Fan Pages and push them for such assurances, thereby leaving a number of misleading profiles in place.

A second and more meaningful step was to set up a grievance procedure whereby brand and trademark owners could petition Facebook for the exclusive use of their brand or mark. While the redress procedure has been criticized for being mostly show — and being very slow to act — it is a step in the right direction. Companies like Thai Airways would do well to begin to shut down unauthorized profiles, and to reduce redundancy where they have created more than one Fan Page. Your brand is valuable. Take steps to protect it!

Hong Kong Disneyland recently experienced another problem of a similar nature — this time on Flickr. The park maintains a personal profile on Flickr, but does not run their own Flickr Group. They did, however, join a Group created by a third party, and that’s where the difficulties arose.

The third party had created a Group named “Hong Kong Disneyland.” The Group name is a big part of the problem; it is likely to cause confusion among users and create a false impression. Moreover, the Group profile page does nothing to clear up the situation and leaves visitors with the impression that this is an official, or at least officially sanctioned, Flickr Group for the park. The Group has a significant number of members and on the whole is what it should be, that is, a collection of photos taken at the park. However, as membership is open to anyone, there is a potential for abuse — particularly in the absence of proper oversight.

The screenshot at right shows what is occurring in that Group. At least one member is using the Group to promote pornographic imagery. If an unwary visitor clicks on the circled users profile, they are taken to a page filled with pornography. Disney, though neither the owner nor the manager of the Group, suffers from the lack of oversight by the Group owner and has no real recourse. The situation seems foreseeable to us: The brand has failed to control its presence on the channel and has left itself open to abuse.

The lesson here is simple: No one will look after your brand like you will. Don’t delegate reputation management to strangers.

Fragmentation is another branding issue of concern. In the rush to get online it seems that many firms created profiles that were subsequently allowed to lay fallow. Still other brands are now struggling to get things back under control after a fast (and perhaps somewhat uncontrolled) start to their social media efforts.

Wotif is a case in point. In the past, the firm maintained a large number of Twitter profiles, each targeting a different country market. They have recently shifted away from that “pure” markets strategy, choosing instead to consolidate all their non-Australian promotional activity on Twitter into a single profile.

The new profile, named WotifG2G (seen at right), covers all the activity outside of Australia and replaces several country-specific Twitter profiles, for example, the WotifUAE and the WotifAmericas Profiles seen below. Wotif has left up the old Twitter profiles — at least for the time being — and is using them to steer existing Followers and newcomers into the new G2G profile (see, collage at bottom).

Other firms who have spread themselves too thinly, or who now find that brand control is an issue, would do well to learn from Wotif’s exercise. It may be a bit painful, but the short-term pain is offset by the long-term advantages of improving control over your message and reduced overhead.

Note: This article is excerpted from the 2010 Asia Travel Engagement Report, a water&stone white paper. You can view the report in it’s entirety by visiting the online marketing resources page and clicking on the White Papers.

Managing Social Media Marketing

In April of 2010, we released the 2010 Asia Travel Engagement Report. The 65 page white paper looked at social media adoption rates and patterns in the Asia travel industry. As part of that anlysis, we examined the various strategies being employed by companies faced with the challenge of managing their brands and products in the social media space. The article below is taken from the Report. In this excerpt, we take a quick look at the various market approaches being used in social media channels.

Given the wide number of choices available, and the various corporate structures and business imperatives, it should come as no surprise that firms are adopting a variety of approaches to managing their social media marketing efforts. While some firms are happy to present a consolidated front across all channels, others are taking a multi-faceted approach, in some cases mirroring their product lines, in other cases reflecting their target markets; yet other firms seem to mix things up a bit — whether by plan or circumstance, it’s hard to say.


Managing a single set of profiles for a brand seemed to be the exception, rather than the rule, for the companies we surveyed. Despite what would seem to be the gains in efficiency and ease of maintenance, only a minority of the top brands used this approach. Jetstar, Bali Safari & Marine Park, and Bangkok Airways, are all examples of firms that maintain only one official profile on the various channels.

The approach has several clear advantages:

  • Ease of maintenance
  • Consistency of message
  • Better brand control
  • Less confusion for users

However, in Asia, where many firms’ target markets speak different languages and have different concerns and priorities, a consolidated approach does rob your firm of a degree of flexibility.


A number of the accommodations firms in our study employ an approach focused on products, or if you prefer, properties. Many, like Karma Resorts, maintain multiple Facebook Fan Pages, one for each of their properties — and sometimes even for outlets on individual properties (e.g., the Karma Steakhouse & Nammos Beach Club Fan Pages seen in the collage, below). This approach can also be seen with other accommodations brands, including Mandarin Oriental and Six Senses.

Karma Resorts Facebook Fan Pages

Alila Facebook Fan PagesAlila employs a similar but slightly different strategy. Rather than building Fan Pages and profiles for each of the properties in their portfolio, they have centered their social media approach on product lines. The Alila Hotels product receives separate treatment from the Alila Villas product line. All hotel properties are dealt with in the Alila Hotels profiles; all villa properties are dealt with under the Alila Villas profiles.

The approach combines the best of both worlds, allowing Alila to tailor the messages and the content to each product line, but decreasing maintenance costs. The approach also has the added advantage of leveraging the brand across properties and enhancing opportunities for cross selling — a client who enjoys Alila Villas Soori is also likely to enjoy another of Alila’s villa properties. By combining the products into one profile, a visitor to the page or profile will be exposed to related products with which they are likely to have an affinity.

The use of a products-centric approach has several advantages:

  • Easier to manage information & promotions that are specific to individual properties
  • More inbound links to website(s), thereby enhancing search ranking
  • Ability to manage reputation on a per property basis, without fear of spillover
  • Ability to manage crises on a per property basis, without fear of spillover
  • Ability to engage in local languages

The products centric approach is not, however, without disadvantages:

  • Increased management overhead
  • Danger of brand drift
  • Increased difficulty in controlling the message
  • Decreased opportunities for cross-selling

While some of the disadvantages can be minimized where the brand’s social media marketing efforts are managed from a central location by a coordinated team, our research shows that where individual properties are given the latitude to manage their own profiles, the dangers highlighted above seem quick to arise.


Several of the more global brands in our survey employed a markets approach to their social media profile creation and management. The markets approach looks to the brand’s target markets for inspiration and creates profiles that align with those markets. We see the approach used by many of the airlines, including Air New Zealand, who created profiles targeting the various countries they view as key to their marketing efforts.

Air New Zealand Facebook Fan Pages

Malaysia Airlines also employs a markets strategy, but rather than focusing on the geographic location of their target markets, they look to the characteristics of the group. To that end, they have created profiles that are aligned with definitive characteristics of key markets. In addition to a group Fan Page, they also maintain Fan Pages targeting expats (MHExpats), students (MHStudents) and cost-conscious travelers (MHDeals).

Malaysia Airlines Facebook Fan Pages

Malaysia Airlines approach is unique among the companies we surveyed and from our research relatively rare among the industry as a whole.

The markets approach has several key advantages:

  • Ability to align your message with your target markets
  • Ability to run market-specific promotions
  • Ability to engage in local languages
  • More inbound links to website(s), thereby enhancing search ranking

The primary disadvantages are similar to those we see in a products approach, specifically:

  • Increased management overhead
  • Danger of brand drift
  • Increased difficulty in controlling the message
  • (Slightly) decreased opportunities for cross-selling


If you would like to read the entire 2010 Asia Engagement Report, it can be download by visiting our social media resources page.