Would You Make A Stupid Corporate Move Like This One?

Well that’s dumb: This is a true story, although I changed the names.

Jack does sales and marketing for Acme Widgets. Acme’s a big company. Jack’s been there for years, he has clout, but he’s not a VP. He likes the product and lots of people in the channels, some of the people he works with. mistakes

Until recently he ran a blog about widgets and how to use them. He did it on his own time, under his own name, but his content focused on Acme products, how to use them, how to sell them, etc. He included tips, case studies, and related news, and all positive and upbeat.

No longer. Acme told him to stop it. They had him take off the logos and any indications that his blog might have been officially sponsored.

I think that’s a dumb move. I’m guessing they’re worried about controlling the brand, or maybe about somebody having a piece of the brand outside of the legal control. Maybe some higher-ups are nervous, maybe even jealous, or worried about who gets what credit. And maybe I’m wrong on this point. I have no idea what the corporate explanation was. I just saw the formal announcement.

I think it’s a great example of people wanting control instead of leadership.

I think they should have given him a bonus and a budget to work with, maybe at the same time establishing guidelines to keep the corporate branding people happy.

Is it really just big-company behavior? Be honest: would you do that in your business? You think not, but I posted here years ago where one small business was uncomfortable with an employee who was taking “too much ownership.” It happens.

(Image: bigstockphoto.com)

4 thoughts on “Would You Make A Stupid Corporate Move Like This One?

  1. Tim, I think you’re right – it’s an issue of control. Because it wasn’t their idea they are not backing it. I think the guy deserves accolades because he was thinking outside the box!

  2. There are good points to made on both sides here.

    The fact that Jack is an employee and is running this blog with no supervision, corporate guidance or accountability is a problem. Despite Jack’s good intentions, there is no such thing as an unofficial blog that carries the name of a corporate employee. No responsible CEO or CMO would allow an employee to run his own private marketing initiative off the reservation.

    That said, killing it is also dumb. It not only wastes the value Jack has created, but it’s a seriously demoralizing smackdown on an employee with extraordinary passion, commitment and initiative.

    The better solution would have been to make the blog official and take it in-house. Tell Jack very politely that his blog is terrific (assuming it is), but that it can’t continue without corporate involvement. If Jack agrees to work under some loose guidelines and principles provided by Marketing, then he can continue, with supervision.

    If the blog was not terrific, then management did the right thing. Sometimes control is exercised just for the sake of control; at other times it’s exercised because control is important for protecting precious brand equity.

    There is a confusing part of the story, though. It says that Jack was told to “stop it” and to “remove logos and indications” that the blog is official. So was he told to remove the blog, or just the logos? Would he would be allowed to continue as long as he removes the logos?

    If that’s the case, it seems perfectly reasonable to me. Again, if the company logo is there and his name is there and he’s an employee, then that’s a problem that management does have to address. If the blog was allowed to continue without the logos, then I don’t see what harm could be done.

    You say, “I think it’s a great example of people wanting control instead of leadership.” He’s not a VP. That means he’s not the leader. Management is right to stop middle managers from leading unapproved marketing initiatives; that’s not their job.

    We gotta draw the leadership line somewhere. We like to say everyone is a leader, but that makes an enormous mess. Marketing strategy and tactics come from the people chosen to make those decisions, People can take initiative too far and inadvertently sabotage the strategy. Managers gotta manage. They can’t do that when every ant is building its own colony.

    1. Thanks Jay. I’m glad to see the counter arguments here, it definitely improves the discussion. By the way, in this case, nobody was telling Jack to stop blogging, just to remove all the logos and indications, as you suggest.

  3. Acme would have been wise to find a way to applaud Jack for his work, but institute some guidelines for the blog without disassociating it from its logos, but this story highlights the tension between new technologies and the historical business practices. Businesses know the importance of controlling their brands and messages, but the immediacy of social media results in some loss of control. I have read that large corporations are really shying away from social media because of the inability to tightly control their message. I guess businesses that learn how to manage that tension will be the more successful ones.

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