Startup Marketing Plan: Trend or Coincidence?

I read an interesting article this week on TechCrunch about a troubling trend in (unintentional?) marketing plans of digital startups.  According to TC writer, Alexia Tsotsis, some of the hottest, new startups use “scandal” (and then public apologies via Twitter) to broadcast their new internet presence and commitment to their customers/users.  Case in point: airbnb‘s public apology after one users home was trashed.  The site issued several apologies and then improved upon and reiterated their commitment to listening to and addressing the needs of their community.

Shortly after this incident, airbnb made the following policy changes:

  • Hosts who book reservations through Airbnb will be covered for loss or damage due to vandalism or theft caused by an Airbnb guest up to $50,000 with the Airbnb Guarantee. This program will also apply retroactively to any hosts who may have reported such property damage prior to Aug. 1, 2011.
  • Airbnb has doubled its customer support team from 42 to 88 people and will be bringing on a 10-year veteran from eBay as its director of customer support next week.
  • Beginning next week, Airbnb will have 24-hour operators and customer support staff ready to provide around-the-clock phone and email support.
  • Airbnb now has an in-house task force devoted to the manual review of suspicious activity. This team will also build new security features based on community feedback.
  • If hosts cannot get in contact with anyone, they are urged to contact the CEO directly at brian.chesky@airbnb.com.

Perhaps this is the modern, digital version of “There’s no such thing as bad publicity?

After noticing this trend with other startups, Sean Percival, guru of all things tech and prior colleague of mine at MySpace, created this amusing(/troubling?) form letter that startups can use to address issues that arise.

Form created by @Percival for TechCrunch.com

What are your thoughts?  Do you know of any startups that have issued mass apologies similar to the one above?

I look forward to your comments. 🙂

-Amy Stretten

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