Risky Business: When T-Mobile Dances with the Royal Wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton

This post is not directly related to a crisis analysis. It is indirecly related to a major event, the British royal wedding between Prince William and Kate Middleton, that generates wordwide media attention. A royal wedding is an event that portrays positive media impact in terms of reputation if nothing wrong happens. In this present case, the wedding captures massive media attention. In this kind of events, it is usual to count with collateral stories or issues that are magnified taking advantagde of global media attention.

This is apparently what is currently happening with the last online ad designed for T-Mobile UK and publicly launched last 15 April 2011. This company has created a video posted in Youtube showing a wedding entrance dance with actors with strong and astonishing ressemblances with main protagonists (royal and clerical). The video is a huge success in terms of impact, as just in 10 days has surpassed the mark of 10 millions views. The viral development of visits and the increase of media attention in the next few days ensures a continuing success in this marketing initiative. You can view it here.

Our aim in this post is to proceed to a media reputation analysis and the expected brand impact that this initiative can have on T-Mobile. We will follow an approach already used in this blog to check the media reputation impact of the jokes by Gilbert Gottfried about tsunami in AFLAC.

In order to reach our objectives, we will use the media reputation analysis using vectors of diamonds. Please refer to older posts or to methodology entry for explanation about the construction of the analysis. Basically, a bigger diamong indicates that the company analyzed is strongly associated to a given media reputation vector, according to news content analysis. Small diamonds indicate that the company is not associated by the press to this brand vector.

The analysis is based in the content analysis of some 40.000 different news in English about the royal wedding, and some 500 news about the T-Mobile video about the wedding.

The statement coming from T-Mobile, presenting the video both in Youtube and official Facebook site is quite neutral: “Watch the wedding entrance dance to top all wedding entrance dances. T-Mobile’s Royal Wedding Dance celebrates the marriage of William and Kate with the help of a host of royal look alikes and music from East 17! T-Mobile wishes William and Kate a long and happy marriage. Join our Facebook group.”

The message by T-Mobile is somehow festive, but is does not pretend to be provocative or follow an unrespectful approach. We will check with our analysis to which extent this attitude is also perceived in the same way by the people watching the video and journalists commenting it.

We open our analysis with the comparative media reputation of news about the royal wedding in general, against media reputation reflected in news about the online ad by T-Mobile using the royal wedding theme.

We show first a sample of emotional brand vectors, like “Spectacular” and “Acclaimed”.

First results are clearly good news for T-Mobile interests: media perception of T-Mobile ad is perfectly in line with all news about the wedding. Good news also because media perception of this event is especially high concerning these emotional brand vectors.

The following figures refer to brand vectors other than emotional. First one refers to “Excellence”. The results show that the degree of association is lower, but again media perception is basically the same for the event and for the advertising.

As a sample of rational vectors, we choose “Innovative, Efficiency”. As expected, the media perception of the wedding event is not associated to innovation. We could expect that media could portray the news about the T-Mobile marketing campaign, but it is not the case in fact: once again both issues follow the same path.

All in all, first conclusions are that the online ad strongly associates T-Mobile to emotional brand components. It also shows that news about the T-Mobile video is perceived basically in the same way that all news about the wedding, concerning emotional brand vectors.

The nature of the marketing initiative requires to further explore its media percpetion concerning bad image components. If we just considered the royal wedding, we could consider these vectors as not relevants, as public opinion and media coverage critizism is probably marginal. But we need to check the media perception of the marketing initiative of T-Mobile, as they are “playing” with personalities and insititutions that many consider to be too serious and always requiring a respectful treatment, like the Queen, the royal family and by extension the Monarchy or an Archbishop and Christian faith.

Do Youtube viewers and journalists consider inappropriate or even shocking to see all these personalities dancing?

Let’s move to the empirical analysis to answer the question. As we have made in other reputational analysis like reputational impact or AFLAC duck jokes, we show the media perception of news referring to brand vector “Scandal” and “Tragedy”.

Now the answer coming from our results is that T-Mobile has bad news concerning the bad image impact of the marketing initiative. In contrast with the precedent cases, we find here a decoupling between media perception of the wedding and the online ad. As expected, there is a low level of relationship between the wedding and “Scandal” and “Tragedy” attributes. By contrast, we find that media associate quite strongly the T-Mobile campaign to negative image components. There is a strong association with “Scandal”, especially for the components scandalous, harm and mistake, and somehow for embarrassing and awful.

The initial results emerging from the analysis using the Media, Reputation ans Intangibles MRI Universidad de Navarra methodology suggest that T-Mobile has assumed and approved a risky initiative, as it can harm its reputation especially in Britain. It was a risky decision as far as that the technical quality of the result is not disputed, plus the previsible huge impact linked to the massive media attention to the primary event could push the video to its actual result: it ir right now becoming a social network hit, with a fast and viral development. This is a risky decision in the sense that the company launches a marketing campaign that it is out of control of the company. Being a hit does not necessarily mean that it receives a positive valuation. Our results indicates that while media appreciates it concerning the emotional brand values, it is judging it severely in terms of lack of respect to the royal family. And the multiplication of this feeling among new viewers of the video cannot be stopped at this point.

We need to continue our empirical analysis in order to check if the association of news about the T-Mobile video really come from a critizism of media for the treatment given to the British institutions. There is a possibility that the association to “Scandal” and “Tragedy” does not come from the video itself, but that it is due to the fact that T-Mobile has presently a bad reputation in the press for other reasons than the video. The way to check this point is to compare present media reputation of all news about T-Mobile, against media perception of news directly linked to the video. In this case, our analysis is based in some 4.000 news about T-Mobile published worldwide in April 2011. We inclued in our analysis also media perception of T-Mobile in newspapers from United Kingdom, in the same period (some 400 news).

We compare first the two brand vectors associated to negative image: “Scandal” and “Tragedy”.

The empirical results produce a cristal clear answer: association of T-Mobile to “Scandal” and “Tragedy” comes directly and exclusively from the royal wedding video initiative. Global reputation of T-Mobile is completely unconnected to “Scandal” and “Tragedy”, both in UK media and in other countries.

The risk of course is that in the coming days T-Mobile news will be mainly linked to the marketing campaing, and not to its core business. If our analysis is correct, video news should “contaminate” little by little the global media perception about T-Mobile, and we should observe an increase of association to these negative brand vectors. We will eventually publish updated results in this blog.

We complete this section of analysis by comparing global T-Mobile reputation againsts media reputation related with the video initiative concerning the positive brand vectors. This allow us to identify the specific gains that the marketing campaign can bring to T-Mobile brand reputation.

We analyse first emotional vectors “Acclaimed” and “Spectacular”. In both cases, the video related news tend to increase the association of T-Mobile to these vectors. The degree of association to “Acclaimed” and “Spectacular” concerning T-Mobile is higher among UK newspapers than global media. This is probably due to the fact that the proportion of news related to the royal wedding video is higher in the UK. Remember that this is an initiative of T-Mobile UK, while this company is present in other countries, as it is a German brand coming from Deutsche Telekom.

The other brand components were not especially high with news about the video. We compare them to all news about T-Mobile. We find that the video has a neutral impact on brand vectors “Excellence” and “Talented”, as both type of news share a similar profile. It tends nevertheless to reinforce the association with “Talented, Smart”.

Final brand vector is “Innovative, Efficiency”. We found a low level of association to this vector with news about the royal wedding and the video, as expected. Now we observe that it is significative lower than T-Mobile reputation, which is strongly associated to “Innovation”. This is again a result we would like to find, as T-Mobile is a communication company relying in IT technology. Even if the video is not associated to innovation, we consider that it does not harm T-Mobile reputation in this case, as people see them (the video and T-Mobile services) as completely unconnected elements in terms of innovation.

So, the analysis of all news about T-Mobile confirms us that the royal wedding video, even if it has a positive impact in terms of emotional brand vectors association, it can undoubtely harm T-Mobile reputation, as media provide a media coverage of the video similar to “Scandal” and “Tragedy” issues. This “success story” can potentially become a reputation crisis created by misjudgment inside T-Mobile.

Confronted to all these results, it could be argued that all this story was a matter of a calculated risk. It was evident to the agency proposing the product (Saatchi & Saatchi) that making all royal family dancing would be considered as insensitive or even offensive to some. But these some offended would not be the main target reached by a pure online marketing action. People more sensitive how the Monarchy as institution is treated could prefer traditional media instead of social online media. If this was the case, highly sensitive customers would watch the video and be offended in a small and acceptable percentage. In this sense, online video content is more adapted and open to unformal treatement to royal family. Thus, people in the net are not surprised nor shocked to find more provocative content, and eventual bad image damage would be finally very limited.

Being all this probably true, we have again a way to check this question using our tools of analysis. If the T-Mobile Royal Wedding Entrance dance follows the unwritten rules of internet social network, we should expect that newspapers covering this video react in a similar scandalized and critic way than faced to other internet creations going viral.

Our proposal is to compare how newspapers cover treat the T-Mobile Royal Family viedo against to close cases. First comparison is with the original wedding entrance dance inspiring the royal family one, and well known in internet, as it became another hit. This is the video about JK Wedding, for Jill and Kevin’s amateur wedding video. Now it counts with some 65 million views. You can watch the video here.

Second term of comparison is past experiences by T-Mobile on online ads. In fact this brand is known by past videos that have become a reference in the social network. They are basically flashmob. Welcome back theme in Hearthrow has received some 8 million visits. Sing-Along at Trafalgar Square has received almost 5 million visits.

We base our comparative analysis in the news content analysis of JK wedding video and T-Mobile flashmobs.

We analyse first emotional vectors. We find that all three cases share a rather similar profile concerning “Acclaimed” and “Spectacular”. In general, Royal Wedding video is preferred.

As for other positive vectors non emotional, we find first that as for “Excellence”, both JK Wedding video and precedent flashmobs are best considered than Royal wedding video.

As for vector “Talented”, royal wedding is similar to the other videos in many components, but is lower associated in some other like skilled and unique.

“Innovation” vector is a relevant one for T-Mobile brand reputation, as we showed before that is the main brand vector reference for this industry sector. When comparing royal wedding video against the other videos, we find that past marketing initiatives by T-Mobile were much more associated to “Innovative” than the royal family one. This is notably the case for components innovative and world class.

Finally, the negative image vectors, that are the specific ones that we wanted to check in order to verify if bad image is associated to the video itself or if it is a common trend by social network productions.

The answer falls almost undisputable when analyzing the results concernig the brand vectors “Scandal” and “Tragedy”. Our results clearly show that precedent T-Mobile marketing initiatives are not related at all with these negative image vectors. JK Wedding video falls in between, but always with a lower degree of association to “Scandal” and “Tragedy”. We an now confirm our initial conclusion: yes, newspapers are judging the royal wedding entrance dance as something regrettable by some journalists. They are distilling a bad perception of this initiative in their articles, even if they awknoledge the positive emotional components linked to the video.

A final remark, asking for an additional check. If we put together all pieces shown in this post, we could even come to the conclusion that T-Mobile UK marketing people have playd the perfect game. The knew that taking advantadge of massive media attention to royal wedding woudl ensure a huge exposure and viral development of their video, multiplying the impact of the ad campaign. But as at the same time they were conscius that using the British royal family theme in a “funny” way it could shock and offend some Britons. In order to minimize image damage for T-Mobile, they used exclusively online channels to access to the ad, and not through TV ads. The underlying hypothesis being that potentional “shocked royalists” concentrate in traditional media, while people more flexible use more online communication. This selection of targets limit the offence to people more sensible to monarchy institution.

Having in the same time that newspapers (traditional media) consider it in general a provocative initiative, according to our media perception results, and that the Youtube video is a major hit, this initiative could thus be perceived a perfect marketing and branding story.

But before reaching this conclusion, it is required to obtain an additional result: that people watching the Youtube video enjoy and appreciate it, and do not consider it as a provocation, as newspapers do. This result cannot be taken for granted.

Online media and social networks is not part of the sample and contents that we analyze systematically at Media, Reputation and Intangibles center, MRI Universidad de Navarra. But we can provide some insights in this specific case in order to close all our reputational analysis.

The way we use is simply to check the information offered by Youtube and publicly available. Youtube provides information about the number of views, and the number of people registered that vote as a “Like” or as a “Dislike”. We have been monitoring the evolution of these data in the days aroung the royal wedding. Collected data is presened in the next figure.

Today, 30 April 2011, after some 16 million views of this video, 10.7% of all votings judge the video in a negative way. 89.3% people voting like it. We observe that the trend goes clearly in wider levels of acceptance. At the beginning of our series, five days ago, the percentage of people disliking was 12.8%. This result is also telling us that general public (those coming to it looking for videos about the royal wedding) tends to find it funny and positive, while people in a early stage tended to judge it more severily. Probably the percentage of people watching the video from Britain was higher in the first stage, than after, when the event becomes global.

It this a huge success in terms of acceptance, or it shows a lot of insatisfaction? As almost always, the best way to answer to this answer is by comparison with other relevant references. And we count with some of them in order to get an interpretation of this result.

The first term of comparison we use is the analyse the rate of acceptance of the T-Mobile Royal Wedding dance against past Youtube experiences by T-Mobile. Our results show that by comparison, precedent flashmob and similar initiatives by T-Mobile receive an almost universal positive rating, as people disliking is never higher than 2.5% of voting received. With this reference, we see that the share of people that dislike the new T-Mobile marketing campaign multiplies by 5-8 in comparison with precedent proposals. This result is perfectly in line with the results obtained using content analysis of reputation by traditional media, shown above in this post.

T-Mobile royal wedding dance is inspired by an amateur video recording the wedding entrance of Jill and Kevin, as explained before. Next comparison is with the acceptance rate of both videos.

Results show that again the level of acceptance of JK wedding video (96.7%) is substantially higher than those for T-Mobile video (89.3%). We have included also the acceptance rate of another flashmob reference video in Youtube, Christmas Food Court Flash Mob, Hallelujah Chorus, also much higher. In this case also, we identified this difference in perception when we analized the news content.

Next set of comparisons is against viewers perception of Youtube videos about actual William and Kate royal wedding, and some other precedent royal weddings. We want to check if poor relative acceptance rate of T-Mobile ad is due to the specific tardet of royal weddings, which could have more opponents than in other fields.

Acceptance rates fot videos about William and Kate wedding range from 94-95%, except for a video from ABC, with an acceptance rate of 90.3%. In all cases, the acceptance rate is higher than for T-Mobile proposal. It can be supposed that people disliking actual royal wedding videos are more anti-royalists, while viewers against the T-Mobile royal dance are ranked mainly among monarchy supporters.Preferred video about William and Kate wedding refers to the procession after the marriage.

Videos from past royal weddings show acceptance rates from 96 to 92%. The highest acceptance rate is for Prince Charles and Diana wedding.

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