Nokia’s ‘Finnish Christmas’ – a cautionary tale

That old saying, ‘there’s no such thing as bad publicity’? Well, in a Web 2.0 world it just ain’t true.

That’s mainly because in the old days, you could take a few hits and it didn’t hurt too much. With a limited number of newspapers and TV stations, you could control even the negative PR to some extent. And always have the fall back that today’s news is tomorrow’s chip wrapping. Today, of course, you do good PR and it goes viral – self-replicating good stories, your brand being blogged and Tweeted, your name up there on backlit laptop screens across the world. And it stays there forever.

Nokia’s ‘Finnish Christmas’ campaign was a classic viral campaign, relying on the public to mobilise and talk about their brand. Five winning towns would get a Nokia-themed Christmas Wonderland, with food, crafts for children, snow and reindeer – all rolling into their town for just one day as a VIP event. All you had to do was vote for your town, and votes would be counted as a percentage of population so small towns had a fighting chance. Clever stuff, children and Christmas – and when Worthing Borough Council put their corporate weight behind the  voting, with councillors sending out emails encouraging people to click and vote – Worthing won.

And then this week, lots of people who had voted got an email from Nokia. It said ‘You’ve received this because you entered the Nokia Win Snow competition, and you’ve been selected for special VIP tickets to your town’s event! … copy and paste this link into your browser … to complete your booking for this fantastic treat!’

I was one of them. So – imagine the surprise after telling the children the good news and rearranging the weekend to fit around Nokia’s party (it is this weekend, so very short notice) when I received a second email from Nokia.

It says ‘We’re sorry for any confusion we’ve caused over the wording of the email … [but] By filling in the online form you’ve registered your interest in getting tickets for the event. … We’re going to randomly select a number of invitees from all who applied, and send them an email to confirm that they are invited to the event’.

Of course, there wan’t any confusion – they just made a mistake and invited too many people, and are trying to wriggle out of it. An hour after receiving Nokia’s second email myself, people were starting to mobilise on Twitter and Facebook.

Nokia was facing a massive PR backlash in the first UK town to host their ‘Finnish Christmas’. Faced with seeing all the support they’d mobilised with clever viral marketing turn around, their PR company did the best thing possible. It intervened, contacting local journalists and bloggers quickly, and agreed to honour the first email: everyone who’d received it and followed the link would get Nokia’s Christmas experience.

Smart, savvy, swift and downright sensible work from the team at thisismission.com.

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