March 20 2018
By Dave Avran
WATSONS Personal Care Stores (Watsons) have been in operation since 1870 and are the largest health and beauty care chain store in Asia.
It is a member of the A.S. Watson Group, majority-owned by CK Hutchison Holdings of Hong Kong. They operate over 700 stores in Hong Kong, Macau, Mainland China, Taiwan, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, the Philippines, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Turkey, Ukraine, Lithuania and Latvia. (source: Wikipedia)
Given this rich history and background, you would think that Watsons would take good care of its brand reputation, particularly on social media.
However this was not the case when Watsons Malaysia got into a spat with a customer after news of its broken safety seals went viral.
The issue was compounded after a “fake” Twitter account for Watsons Malaysia responded rudely to the customer’s complaint on Twitter.
The customer, blogger Adam Minter, wrote on his blog detailing the broken seal on the Panadol box that he had purchased from his local Watsons store in Petaling Jaya.
Concerned that other medications in the store might have been tampered with, Minter took to Twitter to warn customers about the safety violations that he encountered and was quickly met with a response by “WatsonsMalaysia”.
A very public social media spat ensued, with Minter tweeting about Watsons Malaysia carrying insufficient safety seals on its product.
Subsequently, the Watsons Malaysia Twitter account turned increasingly rude in its replies and drew the ire of Malaysians online.
The issue went viral after it was reported on news curating site Says.com.
Watsons Malaysia has since denied that this is its official account.
A Watsons Malaysia statement posted on Facebook said: “We have reported this to Twitter and the police. Hence, the comments in that account do not represent an official response with regard to this matter.”
Unfortunately the brand did not respond further to queries from interested parties.
Minter later reported on his blog that Watsons Malaysia’s head of marketing called to admit that CCTV footage showed its staff had broken the seals on Panadol boxes, which was against company procedure.
He blamed Glaxosmithkline. You can read that here.
So in this digital age of rampant social media usage, how can companies protect their brands from doppelganger accounts?
For starters, be more vigilant in monitoring the social media narrative about your brand.
The Watsons case presents an important lesson for companies on the threat of unauthorised accounts and content on social media.
The open nature of social media makes it easier than ever for a fraudulent account to be created and compromised, which makes it necessary to identify, report and protect brands against such abuse.
Social media channels are the most public demonstration of a company’s commitment to customer service.
If a brand wants to maintain an effective presence in social media, the company must invest sufficient resources to ensure it can handle the volume and nature of social interactions.
Popular posts on Twitter tend to get shares almost instantaneously, so companies would do well to handle doppelganger accounts in a time sensitive manner before stories like Minter’s go viral, with the potential to tarnish a brand’s image.
The longer a company remains silent, the greater the brand’s exposure towards negative comments and widespread speculation about the case.
The mirror of social media is tied to a brand’s identity and ultimately, success in social media depends on how well brands understand people; not how well they understand platforms or technology.
This was perfectly showcased in another Watson’s PR kerfuffle last June when the Malaysian public lashed out at it over their use of an actress in blackface for its :Legenda Cun Raya: Hari Raya video.