Casino Reputations and high-risk online business models

As our team is formalizing some niche segments with unique reputation issues, one of the unusual models of reputation is within businesses that have an inherent percentage of alienated consumers.

Casino reputations are one such example. Regardless of who visits the casino, a certain percentage of the consumer marketplace will always lose at the gambling table.

There are other business models like this:

  • Limited seating concerts: if you have ever been “Johnny come lately” to performance, you have probably experienced at least one instance of feeling left out and alienated when the doors closed right in front of you. While many individuals simply walk away and try again another time, a small percentage of people turned away at the door lash-out and demand specialized attention. Even after jumping through a few extra business hoops and offering additional value, many businesses find angry prospects complaining online.
  • High-risk financial funds: if you knew anyone with an investment portfolio through 2007 to 2010, there were probably a few times when you saw some numbers on your monthly statement you weren’t especially happy with. In times of stress and high-monetary value, many investment consumers take our the frustration against brands, analysts and investment firms for lack of performance.
  • Premium vs economy models: (airlines are famous for this) – every consumer wants fair and equitable treatment, but some models of business have preset levels of service that the community at large doesn’t always agree with. The most common example is airlines who have 1st class, business, and economy levels of service. The perceived value of service vs the delivered level of service in these cases is often exaggerated and causes a high probability of online complaints.

An excerpt from our casino reputation page details some other issues:

Casino reputations are particularly interesting, as the entire model of many casino braands has transformed from games of risk into family event destinations. When it comes to where we choose to take risks, reputation has always been a key influencer for controlling where consumers spend hard-earned dollars.

As unique niche properties, Casinos have the basic challenge that a percentage of customers will loose at the table. This isn’t due to the lack of integrity by the casino, but the perception of gambling is that casinos need to provide honest and fair terms. If the perception of the digital consumer is influenced to indicate the casino or its executives are dishonest, the entire business model suffers painful revenue losses.

When businesses are operating in high-risk scenarios that require complex customer service and management structures, our team at SMR is immediately alerted to potential areas of business impacts that can occur in the online marketplace.

After reading this, give some thought to the actual business model and process structure. You should give special attention to your top ten percent and bottom ten percent of clients. In many instances, the bottom ten percent of your clients should detail the prospects that you didn’t service (either through choice, business model, or circumstance.)

When examining the top/bottom ten percent, create a simple bullet list of pros/cons for each segment and ask yourself these two questions:

  • Does this pro/con get communicated online?
  • What can we do to prevent a bad item from becoming more severe, or leverage a good component as a free exposure tool?

Xfinity vs Comcast, No Reputational Escape?

Earlier this month (February  2010),  Comcast made the announcement of shifting over several products to a new brand: Xfinity. The downside to the brand revamp appears to be a spiral effect of news channel, industry critics, and industry peers passing along a series of criticisms trying to rebrand reputation.

Unfortunately it isn’t going so well for Xfinity. Starting with Reuters article “Comcast Seeks Reputation Change with Xfinity brand“, critic after critic is asking big questions about the rebrand effort.  In essence, the brand was not what was the target of the change (its reputation was.)

This is a digital issue we have covered before (Supermedia, Idearc, Verizon, and GTE) , as companies continue to re-brand business units in an attempt to fix areas of concern in online reputation and real world business issues.

A core problem of these rebrand efforts is the digital portion, where conversations connect old brands to new brands, along with some related problems on the side of search engine results. Read more

SuperMedia , Idearc, Verizon, GTE ? Reputations Don’t Fade online.

In the past, corporations and big business developed into the mindset that you could “reset” a brand simply by changing your logo and developing a new slogan.  The mentality found within corporate America was that the average consumer had little or no long term memory. The lack of memory leads to the simple assumption that the non-digital consumer would never connect the dots with due-diligence and investigation.

The data repository now known as the world wide web has connected those dots. Companies (and people) now have a thousands of data points being historically interconnected. Stories and insight about topics of interest are no longer doomed to fade away, but are chiseled into digital stone to be remembered, recalled and renewed. Read more

Reputation Trends and market metrics

With the increasing buzz around online reputation and personal brand, I felt it was important to highlight some basic fundamentals regarding the numbers of people searching for reputation. This ten second clip visualizes how audiences interacted with specific keyphrases (in this case reputation), and this saturation map details the focus shift of reputation interest over time.

This example has an important note with the election period of 2009, when saturation across the United States tripled. Areas in darker blue are regions of high search intensity. If we drill these metrics down into specific states and communities, individual political campaigns and impact of reputation can be identified, ranging from build-up of rally points to election day.

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United Airlines brand and reputation value

hotel-brand-theftOften working with corporate communications, our team is asked to review current examples of corporate reputation taken over.

When dealing with organizations that are dealing with digital communication changes, one of the most revealing points is to compare multiple data sources and review how A leads to B leads to C.

In the case of United Airlines we collected a snapshot of material on 10/01/09 and created a simple one page questions and answers sheet that served as a thought catalyst.

There are several concepts that need to be addressed (From left to right)

In 2008, the pilot union of United Airlines created the GlennTilton blog, directly targeting the CEO’s name in an effort to spotlight their request to have Glenn Tilton fired. Through-out most of 2009, the site was averaging two to four thousand visitors a month.

In the center column, brand advocates and disgruntled consumers participated in (a letter play on United) – which averaged 8500 visitors a month.

On the right column, Guitarist Dave Carroll created the smash-hit video “United Breaks Guitars” and had nearly five million viewers (as of today: 7.2 million)

Across the center row, we can see the numbers related to estimated search traffic that was exposed and redirected from brand keyword searches. The true box of importance is highlighted (to right) , placing on-going brand damages at $25k a month and higher.

Some other items of note:

Wikipedia has an entry that scores on the third search result of the search phrase “United Airlines.” That Wikipedia resource page was viewed 66595 times in December 2009. (resulting in an additional potential loss of $150k a month)

That brand/marketing damage is not simply about mass audience appeal, but industry investor impact. As a direct connection to poor stock performance and bad reputation, BloggingStochs editor Jamie Dlugosc wrote “Stock to avoid #7 – United Airlines” where the United Breaks Guitar video was highlighted for the investment audience.

To leave on a more comical note:
“Hitler finds out United Breaks Guitars”

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Corporate Brand and Reputation – How Digg Kills

Corporate social media is a huge buzz phrase. A company’s brand online- through social media reputation and word of mouth marketing is beginning to have more and more weight in today’s marketplace. In the past, the saying used to be that one bad customer could relay the story to ten you never met. In the social media world, one customer can reach thousands they have never met (sometimes millions). Today’s contender for brutality to a companies reputation is “The Worst Company in America Award“, via Digg, Google, and a million online readers.

This years contest winner was Countrywide Home Loans. 123 deals with companies having severe reputation and brand problems online, but Countrywide beats most of them on a scale of how problematic it can be.

I first found out about the tongue-in-cheek contest at Digg. The story had received over 1000 “thumbs up” votes. When an article receives that many votes the information is pushed onto the front page of Digg (which has 230 million+ pageviews/month and 26 million uniques) where it sat for the better part of a day. That roughly equates to about six million page views, along with 161 comments.

Examining the “big picture” of the “Digg Effect” brings in some truly amazing numbers when you search the site for other articles including Countrywide. In the past year they have had many articles involving them (all bad) submitted to Digg, with a total of 11,820 votes. Multiply the number of page views by the number of times one of the stories found itself on the homepage and you have a much bigger issue.

Most marketers immediately think that the damage is self-contained to the community users of Digg. Unfortunately Google loves Digg. Stories reaching the front page often emblaze themselves permanently into the search terms for the article. In this case – the term was “Countrywide Home Loans

Countrywide Social Media Reputation

Within 24 hours, the Digg story was prominently on the sixth result for Countrywide’s own name- reading ” Digg-Worse Company in America – Countrywide Home Loans”

By the end of the day Google had found the original content for the site running the contest and replaced it with the actual link to the consumerist article.

On the Consumerist site, the two originating articles that ended the contest received 31,000 and 34,000 views, with a total of 266 comments.

Before counting all the social media traffic that read these articles, we can assume that some of the 189 to 236 people a day who search for “Countrywide Home Loans” also read the articles when they see the search result.

How much brand damage does social media expose a company to? I would say a lot. In Countrywide’s case, proudly displaying the “Worse Company in America” title on your own name via Google is costing them millions.

Countrywide Home Loans has also found itself displayed on two other sites: where a neglected author states “Please take the time to read my story and see how I was ripped off by Countrywide Home Loan.” and which is a community forum that has 446 conversational threads about Countrywide.

Some other examples of how social media is driving reputation into the ground:

Growing Pains Hit Dell’s Customer Service: In 2004 CNET had a review of Dell’s customer service, garnishing 129 comments. As time went on, customers lovingly began referring to dealing with Dell customer service as “Dell Hell

Other sites dedicated to promoting company mistakes:

Rip-Off Report: Probably the most well known reputation destroying site, this site ranks in Google’s top ten search results for all sorts of rip-offs and scams, as an example case PepBoys (the auto store chain) has 115 mentions on the site. In the search engine world, Ripoff Report has been reviewed by experts like myself and Rand Fishkin over who examined if Rip-Off Report was merely a scam and extortion scheme. This site ranks in Google’s top ten search results for companies like Capitol One, featuring a dozen or more reviews of the company that have received three to five thousand readers in the past two months.

If you have stake in a company, take some of the steps required to protect your brand and assets online. I’ve included links below to some of my articles on reputation control and brand protection, in addition to ways you can monitor and leverage different online assets in your favor.

United Airlines CEO Glenn Tilton under attack – by pilot Union.

Professional brands have always been subject to attack in the media, but until recently there have not been too many options for creating your own news channel to use as platform for staging complaints. A few days ago Robert Mark from covered “United Pilots give Tilton a Kick” based on United Airline pilots launching a blog asking for the termination of the company’s CEO Glenn Tilton.

United Airline Pilots “We’ve started this web site because we’re tired of seeing the Tilton organization play the blame game”

Robert does an excellent job of defining some critical elements of the pilots site:

“Although the anti-site is not new, this well-organized site is quite a clever tactic. It’s easy for anyone to choose a juicy topic from the menu like Tilton’s “Operational Failures,” strategic blunders, financial or even employee and customer service screw ups like, “Only 38% of United employees are proud to work for the airline.” Ouch.

Something Tilton is just going to love is the convenient message form tied to Mr. Tilton’s e-mail so anyone can send him a comment. My guess is that mailbox is going to fill up pretty quickly.”

Looking away from the site, this is a coordinated effort to destroy a professional reputation (and I must add, it is a pretty well-thought effort too.)

If you search Google for – Glenn Tilton, there are 113,000 documents.

The first result is a Wikipedia entry that has already been edited to mention the GlennTilton site launched four days ago:

“The Air Line Pilots Association has long been a critic of Tilton’s management style and airline experience. On August 11, 2008, ALPA launched a website calling for Tilton’s resignation at

Tilton has also been a vocal proponent of mergers in the airline industry, dating back to United’s bankruptcy days. Tilton attracted much scorn for his views on mergers, until recently with talk about consolidation among US network carriers.

Upon exiting bankruptcy, Tilton received compensation valued at $39,700,000, mostly in stock options that vest over several years, and this caused unrest among the airlines labor unions.”

United Pilots, flight attendants and supporters picket outside the United Airlines' shareholders meeting June 12.The second result is an article form the Chicago Sun-Times, “United Pilots want CEO Glenn Tilton to resign.” which clearly covers a statement made by the Union “the United chapter of the Air Line Pilots Association said United needs new leadership. It launched a Web site to draw attention to what it says have been Tilton’s failures since he took over as CEO in September 2002.”

“‘‘This is not a personal attack on Glenn Tilton,’’ Wallach said. ‘‘These dismal numbers speak for themselves. They are a reflection of his inability to lead, his incompetence as a manager and his failure in virtually every category that can be measured. We have tried every conceivable way to convince him to invest in, and maximize the goodwill of, his employees. He has failed miserably.’’

Aside from Glenn Tilton, the bigger picture for online reputation problems extends to the overall United brand as well. On a search for United Airlines, one first page result is a wonderful article from titled “Fatal Events Since 1970 for United Airlines (if that isn’t a bad brand line, I don’t know what is.)

The second negative result is a site playing on the same letters as United: The brutal items to assemble information against United are well assembled into brand problems that would rock the most hardened company: The worst airline — ever, Legal Action Time, Form Letter Time, Mishandled Minors, Joining Lawsuits are all examples of categories of information there.

According to, Untied receives roughly 11,000 unique visitors a month who read that information. Assuming that an average ticket is $300 to $400, how many of the 11,000 unique visitors a month to are either prospective United customers or current ones? Even if only 5% are (500 monthly unique visitors) the monthly brand damage by this one site can be estimated at $150k to $200k in lost revenue. Unfortunately I would estimate that the actual percentage of possible/current airline clients is in the 25% or higher range ($750k to $1 million monthly brand impact.)

If you are aware of other brand issues online and would like us to cover some of the ramifications or solutions to the situation, please contact us. Our team is always looking at these issues and examining how they are affecting business. FYI- we like hearing about positive social media brand impacts as well!