We published our previous post about current FedEx reputation crisis just two days after the YouTube video ‘FedEx Guy Throwing My Computer Monitor’ was uploaded. It counted at that moment with 1,7 million visits. The extreme viral diffusion announced a massive increase of visits, which means devastating reputation losses for FedEx.
Disaster damages are now confirmed, just one week after. This video has received 7,5 million visits. It has been reported in no less than 800 news alone in the United States. In our previous post we mentioned that this video has killing characteristics as it is perfect for massive distribution: it is just 20 seconds long, the quality of the recording is perfect, FedEx logo is constantly seen in the video, and there is no language barrier as nobody talks, allowing for a global diffusion. These characteristics enable also to be aired completely in TV news and programs, multiplying its fabulous negative reputation effects.
It will also allow for the multiplication of funny spoofs, but disastrous for FedEx corporate reputation. There is already a Conan O’Brien spoof. Just one week ago, and the video has received 200,000 visits. As you can appreciate if you watch it, you can call it perfectly a PR nightmare.
Lousy FedEx Delivery Guys – Conan on TBS
The video and the crisis created started just ten days ago, but we can offer some elements of perspective that help us to assess how damaging this present crisis is. This is also telling us how critical will be for all companies social media and reputation management in what we called this new Transparency Age.
First analysis refers to virality. We present in the following two figures the daily evolution of views of the video in YouTube, and the daily evolution of comments from YouTube registered users after watching the video.
We can observe that there is a massive viewing during the four first days (20 to 23 December), with more than 1 million views daily. The we find a quick substantial drop of interests, with daily views moving around 200-400 thousand visits per day since Christmas Day. This evolution is even more pronounces as for viewers reactions commenting the video. They concentrate in the initial stage of the viral distribution of the video.
Another way to measure the extent and timing of the viral distribution of a reputation crisis is to check what is going on in Twitter, as it is becoming the main viral platform.
We have monitored the number of tweets per hour where the YouTube video was included as link in a Tweet since the inception of the crisis. Twitter results are quite in line with actual Youtube views: first 3-4 days correspond to the critical moments of the reputation crisis in terms of direct impact.
A first lecture of the results is that the worst part of the reputation crisis is overcome. Yes, it is, as it happens with all reputation crisis with a strong viral component. But this is not to say that now FedEx is in a ‘business as always’ status as is a crisis did not happen. The huge viral profile of this crisis imply that during these 4 awful days, customers receive a massive negative impact and perception about FedEx services, and this concentration tend to create new mindsets about brands. Now, FedEx is in a post ‘FedEx Guy Throwing My…’ brand experience for many costumers. This new perception will last, and it will have direct implication for FedEx management and marketing. Now, all upcoming FedEx commercials will need to be designed in a way that it does not established associations and easy jokes with the ‘Guy Throwing’.
Secondly, even if the worst part is overcome, additional damages are really severe. Receiving ‘only’ some 250 thousands new views every day is a terrible figure. As we will show in the next figure, most viewed FedEx commercial in Youtube reach, the caveman story, reaches 1,2 million views, i.e, like running 5 days more the crisis video. This shows how powerful this reputation crisis is.
Now we will present some other pieces of evidence in order to put this current crisis in perspective, by comparison with other valuable references.
First task is to check which place will take this negative event inside the FedEx brand profile inside YouTube. If you look for FedEx related content in YouTube, you find right now our killing ‘FedEx Guy Throwing’ video in first position. It keeps this top position if you check results by number of views. We present below which are the other top 10 FedEx YouTube videos in terms of views, and then by number of comments received.
The results show us the extent of the reputation damages of this 20 seconds video. It is the FedEx reference YouTube video, with the current 7,5 million views (and counting). Ten days ago, the reference Youtube video was a spoof run by YouTube well know user nigahiga, corresponding to Ryan Higa, a star 100% YouTube based. This is a spoof also producing negative reputation perceptions, as jokes refer all to poor service experiences. Third video is also a social media creation, as it corresponds to a political statement by Republican Gingrich where he praises FedEx and UPS services and delivery tracking as compared to public services quality. Fourth most popular video is a funny commercial by FedEx. It reaches currently some 1,2 million views. You can compare this figure concerning a video created and paid by FedEx with the angry costumer video.
We find among top 10 videos 5 commercial created by FedEx, two spoofs, one Japanese news video about a FedEx plane crash, the mentioned political video.
The last one in the top 10 list corresponds also to a homemade video by an angry customer that captured a FedEx driver also throwing boxes improperly. It counts with some 600 thousand views. What it’s striking and revealing is that this video, upload more than two years ago, counted ten days ago with just … 40 thousand views. This is another very important example of the collateral damages of this current reputation crisis: it has sharply increased the YouTube popularity of other existing recorded cases of low quality FedEx delivery service. We will come back to this point later in this post.
We show below the videos corresponding to the top 3 Youtube videos (excluding the ‘Guy Throwing’ video), plus the last one showing a similar case.
FedEx #2 most popular video. ‘FedUp’, a spoof
FedEx #3 most popular video: ’FedEx vs. Government Bureaucracy — Newt Gingrich’
FedEx #4 most popular video: Fed Ex Superbowl Commercial, ‘Cavemen’
FedEx #11 most popular video: ‘FedEx Guy Launches Boxes Off Truck’
If, instead of number of views we check the number of YouTube users’ comments to each video content, we find the results presented in the figure below. We observe that the trend towards videos with negative reputation content is increased, as comments are concentrated strongly in first two videos, with 22,000 comments for our FedEx Guy video, and almost 19,000 comments to FedEx delivery spoof. Compared to these two, all five videos with clear positive content for FedEx corporate reputation reach barely 2100 comments. As it can be observed, the third video receiving more comments is again a negative one showing how a ’Fedex Guy Launches Boxes’
And now, as another way to measure the extent of the reputational damage, we compare YouTube views with another case that is considered as one of the genuine examples of the new power that angry and upset customers can have thanks to social media. We refer to singer David Carroll reaction by creating a YouTube videoclip as revenge and means to protest against poor treatment received by United Airlines after the company workers broke his guitar.
This video went also very quickly viral and now, two years and a half after, has reached 11,3 million views. You can watch it.
‘United Breaks Guitars’
Like this present case, this homemade protest has caused huge reputational damages to United Airlines reputation. The difference with FedEx case, is that the critics does not attack the core business of the company (safety, on board basic services), while FedEx negative advertising is undermining the basic values of the service provided: fragile and valuable objects are manipulated with the appropriate care and attention. This video erodes seriously confidence and trust among many customers, for sure.
We compare the timeline evolution of these two viral YouTube videos. Here, and once again, we find very negative results for FedEx corporate interests. The up to now trend announces that FedEx video will reach a very substantial amount of total views in the incoming months, clearly above the 10 million mark. It means that this very negative video will become the brand reference for FedEx in YouTube for a while, and will become a global reference of negative publicity, as ‘United Breaks Guitars’ currently is.
Our final analysis refers to the impact of the 20 seconds video in the overal reputation perception of the company. One way to do this is to look into the result that we have already presented: The ‘FedEx Guy Throwing My Computer Monitor’ virality has had a contagion effect in other videos showing a similar content of poor delivery service. We have showed above that the video ‘FedEx Guy Launches Boxes’ has dramatically risen the number of views these last ten days from 40,000 to 600,000. We have performed a similar analysis with all other existing videos available in Youtube directly referring to FedEx workers misbehavior.
The figure below provides a clear confirmation of the contagion effect. We have identified 11 videos counting presently with more than 30,000 views. Ten days ago, before the viral video was upload, total number of views was 516,000. Now, ten days later, they have surpassed the 1,8 million mark. Some of the videos present a very regrettable package handling by FedEx workers. Because of the computer monitor video, their visibility and negative impact on FedEx reputation has multiplied almost fourfold.
And here comes what we pointed out in the title of this post. UPS should not rejoice as much as many think and comment in Youtube and in Twitter. The contagion effect does not stop inside the borders of FedEx reputation. it could be expected that Youtube users do also check for similar cases in other companies, like UPS and USPS. And this is indeed what is actually happening.
We have monitored all top YouTube videos with content directly related with UPS. We find 25 videos counting with more than 50,000 visits. We exclude videos referring to several companies including UPS. We have organized them into five categories. Like we did with FedEx, we have counted visits before the viral video was upload (Dec 10), and 10 days later (Dec 28). We present in the following figures our results.
We find that the category that has suffered a substantial increase of views during these 10 last days is the one referring to poor delivery and service, all homemade videos or surveillance cameras. Total number of views of these negative reputation videos have moved from 1,39 million to 2,26 million.
You can check here one of the examples of the UPS videos experiencing a substantial increase of views these recent days. This is also a 21 seconds camera capture, labelled as ‘UPS “special” delivery’. Views are currently 356,000 while it counted with 206,000 views ten days ago (72% increase).
All this means that UPS is experiencing a deteroration in the quality of its portfolio of YouTube videos showing its brand. The following figure presents the distributions of YouTube views concerning top 25 UPS related videos, ten days ago. Weight of positive videos for reputation, based in their own commercials was 39%. This was slighly higher than the weight of negative videos showing poor delivery service, that reached 35%.
Now, by the end of December 2011, we find that the distribution of views has substantially increased the share of negative reputation videos, and particularly those showing a bad delivery service. Now they reach a share of 47% of all views related to UPS. Nothing new came directly from UPS operations: all this increase is directly attributable to the contagion effect coming from the FedEx viral video. As views of commercials has not increased during this period, its weight has decreased to 32%.
We do not find a so strong contagion effect in other postal or delivery companies, like USPS or DHL.
With all these empirical results, we can clearly state that UPS has not much to rejoice and laugh at the current reputation crisis that its archrival FedEx is suffering. At first and superficial sight it could seem that FedEx crisis is a blessing for UPS interests and, as many say, FedEx has created the best commercial ever for UPS. But in the mid-term, once the viral distribution of the FedEx video has fadded away, what it will remain is a strong tarnishment of FedEx brand reputation, but also a decrease of brand reputation for UPS, as YouTube users will find more embarrassing videos about UPS workers’ bad practices than before this crisis, as we show in our precedent figures.
We have shown in this post a dark reputation horizon linked to this current crisis. We wanted to show that it is an illusion to think that this video will become a trendy but short lived YouTube story. We consider that it will produce permanent effects in FedEx reputation. As explained, a first consequence is that all new commercials and ads will necessarily take into consideration that many costumers have this video in mind.
In the meanwhile, FedEx management has reacted, and a senior manager has used the same channel, YouTube, to explain the company position and the measures taken to counter the effects of this video. We showed the video and the text of the statement in our previous post. This strategy has been praised by many corporate reputation and PR experts. We will come back soon with a new post showing our measurements about the effectiveness of the decisions taken.