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How Long Can Fans Stay Mad?

Branding

Why, out of the 141 now former sponsors of the Rush Limbaugh show, did poor ProFlowers and Sleep Number Beds suffer so? A question for sociologists (or Freudian psychologists), perhaps.

Whatever the reason, for a second week in a row, ProFlowers and Sleep Number Beds owned Media Logic’s Retail Social Juice Index (RSJI), with the two brands alone responsible for all top 10 positions on the weekly movers’ list. In fact, ProFlowers’ Social Juice number spiked to an incredible 2072 at the height of the controversy, making it the first brand to top 1000. (Sleep Number Beds crested at 829 on March 3.)

Rabid Limbaugh fans met angry Sandra Fluke defenders on the field of Facebook in a week-long battle of status updates and comments. In a pattern similar to the social engagement spike generated by Lowe’s when it pulled its advertising from the short-lived cable show All-American Muslim and among sponsors entangled in the controversy surrounding Susan G. Komen for the Cure’s decision (since reversed) to end its grants to Planned Parenthood, the walls of ProFlowers, Sleep Number Beds and many of the sponsors of Limbaugh’s program became ground zero for an emotional political debate.

But as with all previous social storms (Gap, Lowe’s, Komen), things started to settle after a week or so. ProFlowers’ Social Juice number dropped below 1000 on Monday, March 12. Throughout, the brand received more positive comments than negative ones, at about a 6/4 ratio, and it is now receiving praise from its customers and fans for not abandoning its wall and instead maintaining attentive customer service all through the proxy war.

It is clear that as an industry and a culture, we’re still working through a few issues. Will this latest controversy drive brands off social media? (This doesn’t seem to be happening.) Off of politically-charged talk radio? (This does seem to be happening.) Are these storms good for business, bad for business or a net nothing?

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