Camille Lauer on how Hallmark used social listening to turn around negative word of mouth

As the Social Media Manager for 105-year-old Hallmark, Camille Lauer started her presentation at our Brands-Only Summit by saluting other “centurions.”

“There's an awesome wealth of heritage and richness that comes with brands that are that old, but there's also an awesome challenge when you try to change an organization with what you're learning in social,” she shares.

At Hallmark, change through social listening came via a stuffed puppy named Jingle.

Jingle was a big deal for Hallmark. The interactive puppy responds to cues while kids read his storybook by barking and doing other adorable things. This wasn't just a brand new type of product for Hallmark, but also a huge success. In fact, they sold out of inventory before Christmas. Kids loved him.

The problem, for about 1,000 people, however: Jingle lost his bark.

Camille explains, “We were thinking this was awesome and we'd done a great job, but the reality for these customers was that it wasn't working. And those of you with children know what happens when a toy with high emotional context breaks — very traumatic.”

Even worse, Hallmark's customer service wasn't prepared to handle the fallout.

When angry parents called their customer service, they were met with disappointing answers like a small refund, or they were told to take it back to their local retailer. And with independently owned retailers and a sold-out inventory, those return experiences weren't great.

Naturally, about 50 upset and vocal customers let out their frustration in social media: 2.5 star reviews on the first page of Google results, 20 scathing reviews on Amazon, crying kids in YouTube videos, and Facebook rants.

“Everyone said they expected more from Hallmark,” Camille explains, “and they were right.”

“You can show all the data in the world, but show those real stories to the executives in your company, and things happen.”

The public dynamic of social can be a powerful change agent.

According to Camille, emphasizing the human, emotional side of the story is the social executive's job — that putting names, faces, and verbatim stories in front of your organization shows them the true consumer experience.

She says, “The public dynamic of social can be a powerful change agent.”

Camille brought those stories to the Social Steering Committee, Product Integrity, Product Development, and Distribution teams to get to the root of the problem and fix it.

Making it right took a lot of manual work and even earned Camille's team some backlash internally.

She was met responses like, “Is this really your job?” “Who is this again?” and “Who is going to pay for this?”

Camille explains, “In organizations of our size, many of us experience the siloed approach, where product development is working on the product for next season and has already forgotten about the product you're dealing with now. Accountability to go back and make it right can be unclear sometimes.”

But, Camille quotes Kaiser Permanente's Vince Golla, as a rallying cry: “You have to be fearless about being the bridge across your company.”

Camille says they broke a lot of conventions to make kids happy again.

Hallmark sent them Nugget, the next interactive stuffed puppy that hadn't hit shelves yet, plus a voucher for the next version of Jingle. Most importantly, Camille took extra measures to leave a trail of breadcrumbs on review sites like Amazon so that people looking at them the following holiday knew Hallmark had made it right.

In true Hallmark fashion, they also included a note apologizing to the kids, saying not to worry about Jingle, that he just needed to “rest his voice for a while.”

“Don't lose sight of what your brand stands for, especially in the work you do in social and the way you communicate with consumers. I know we hear that all the time, but this stuff makes a huge difference,” says Camille.

About 75% of consumers responded to the replacement notifications positively.

Your harshest critics will become your biggest advocates if you make it right.

“Those people who were screaming at us before really had a positive reaction to this. They were so forgiving because we took a couple of extra steps,” Camille explains.

Some of the feedback included: “I appreciate this more than you can imagine,” and, “She was so happy with the little card explaining that ‘Jingle lost his bark,'” and, “Thank you, Hallmark for being one of the few companies who truly know what customer service is!”

“Your harshest critics will become your biggest advocates if you make it right.”

Camille's been a member of since 2011. Find her on Twitter here and be sure to ask about her favorite Royals player. Check out her full presentation from the Brands-Only Summit here.