Bad marketing is one of our favorite topics here at Popehat, and one of our favorite precepts about marketing is Eric Turkewitz's "outsource your marketing, outsource your ethics," to which we generally add ". . . and your reputation." Though we generally discuss this concept in the context of bad legal marketing — for instance, legal comment spam — the principle applies to every industry.
Today's example: an truly epic flameout by Ocean Marketing.
Ocean Marketing is apparently responsible for marketing and distributing a ludicrous-looking X-Box 360 controller. A guy named Paul Christoforo is apparently the head of Ocean Marketing. On his LinkedIn profile, Paul has this to say about his company:
Our professional, highly skilled staff has the knowledge and expertise to help your business increase exposure on major search engines and portals.
Paul's right about the "increased exposure" part, though perhaps not in the way that his customers anticipate. John Biggs at TechCrunch has the story. In brief, when a customer complained about this controller not shipping by Christmas, and suggested he would complain to various tech sites, Paul Christoforo reacted with a bizarre rant, including the following:
You just got told bitch … welcome to the real internet check kotaku in 2 weeks when they are reviewing free PS3 Avengers we send them as well as G4 and all the other majors hell yeah , don’t forget to check Amazon, gamestop.com, play n trade , Myers , Frys and a ton of other local stores coming your way you think you speak for billions son your just a kid you speak for yourself no one cares what you think that’s why were growing and moving 20-50 thousand controllers a month. We do value our customers but sometimes we get children like you we just have to put you in the corner with your im stupid hat on.
When the customer included Mike Krahulik of Penny Arcade (one of the most prominent figures in gaming culture) in the thread, Paul Christoforo doubled down, insulting Mike in a rather deranged fashion:
OK Mike whatever you say lol , are you sure hour not in Boston I spoke to the person who ran the show in Boston last year. If you let some little kid influence you over a pre order then we don’t want to be a your show ,Ill be on the floor anyway so come find me , I’m born and raised in Boston I know the people who run the city inside and out watch the way you talk to people you never know who they know it’s a small industry and everyone knows everyone. Your acting like a douchbag not that it matters pax east pax west , e3 , CES , Gamer Con , SSXW ,Comic Con, Germany I’m all over the place.
Penny Arcade posted the exchange, and it has gone viral, appearing at Kotaku and all over the place. Paul Christoforo had already doubled down, so I guess you could say what came next was quadrupling down: when someone at IGN demanded that he stop citing them for support, he lashed out and suggested that he expected good reviews because he had sent free copies of the controller to them:
In short, Christoforo showed he had learned nothing from BrandLink's skirmish with The Bloggess.
Penny Arcade's story has been slammed all day. It's gone live on Reddit. It's all over the place on Twitter, where Christoforo maintains an account called @oceanmarketting [sic]. The result is not merely extraordinarily bad publicity to Ocean Marketing and its client over this incident, but widespread inquiries into past incidents — like a prior incident of Christoforo acting like a douchebag towards a customer, and inquisitors determining that Ocean Marketing, supposed SEO and web experts, are using a template for their site (and an ass-ugly one, I might add).
There are no lessons here for the Paul Christoforos of the world. Paul Christoforo and his ilk are uneducable. However, if you run a business, there is a lesson for you: when you outsource your marketing, you hand your reputation and ethics over to someone who may or may not be just like Paul Christoforo. Now, not every marketeer is like Paul. But can you tell the difference up front? Do you know how to supervise your outside marketeer? When you wake up one morning after the Christmas holiday and find your company or product in the center of an internet shitstorm caused by your deranged marketeer, do you have a strategy for repairing your reputation?
Remember: outsource your marketing, outsource your reputation and ethics.
Edit 2: Looks like Paul closed the @oceanmarketting account and someone else snatched it up.
Edit 3: One source reports a conversation with Paul, in which he suggests this is no big deal and will all blow over, after which he offers an apology to the customer. It's likely to be too little too late — also, I'd point out that Paul's claim that he doesn't normally get into these communications with customers, and this was a one-time loss of temper, is contradicted by the earlier incident discussed above.
Edit 4: An apology to Penny Arcade. Sort of. "I didn't know how big your site was" is saying, in effect, "I now regret I picked on someone with power, instead of just the weak."
Edit 5: Caught on tape!