Stop Kony 2012: A Bad Buzz?

Stop Kony 2012: A Bad Buzz?

By Hannan Ben Slimane, Intern

Two weeks ago, I analyzed the case of Tippexerience and how successful the campaign was through social media. Here, I am going to talk about a campaign from a non-profit organization (or so..?), that had to face a bad buzz. But first, what is a “bad buzz”? A bad buzz is a negative phenomenon of “word of mouth” which usually takes place on the Internet and which is suffered or caused by an initial action of the brand/organization. Bad buzz can be an action of viral marketing which is not really appreciated or diverted by users.

In March 2012, Invisible Children launched a video about a movement against Joseph Kony, Ugandan LRA leader. A campaign this successful in such a short time is prowess that can be compared to the Arab Spring. This video had huge success in its beginning. In one weekend, the video had 70 million views and the Facebook page for Invisible Children (the NGO behind the “Kony 2012” movement) had 2.9 million fans. “Kony 2012” was the most shared subject on Twitter during the release of the NGO’s video. Internet users started to gather to fight against Kony. Social media of course was involved; even celebrities talked about the movement, which gave it more importance and success. Here is the video in case you missed it, even if it was hard to avoid: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y4MnpzG5Sqc

Suspicions arose from the way the video was sending a message. Indeed, the video looks like a propaganda film and the objective of the campaign is not in line with the mobilization of NGOs and the call to donate. Is it really necessary to make a donation to capture Joseph Kony? Certainly the fact that Kony is not yet arrested is not caused by a lack of funding.

And then, based on that, a lot of rumors (true and untrue) surfaced online. A Canadian student ensures that Invisible Children “is in favor of a direct military intervention, and their money supports the Ugandan government army and other military forces.” Moreover, a photo of the founders of the NGO was broadcast (see photo in this article). We can see them pose with arms alongside the SPLA military (Sudanese militia backed by Uganda). So where is the truth? Invisible Children has not provided a convincing explanation following the airing of this photo. They justify this picture as a “youthful indiscretion”. Regarding the financing they confirm “that no donation was given to the government.” Although the cause supported by Invisible Children is a necessity for thousands of civilians, but the means put in place appear to be doubtful. Later on, a scandalous affair about the leader of “Invisible Childen”, Ben Keesey, surfaced and got things even worse. He was arrested for masturbating in public in California.

Unfortunately, all of this was just a bad buzz. Kony is still somewhere to be found and thousands of children in Africa are still enrolled in child labor.

A buzz can turn out to be very bad for a brand because they cannot totally control it. It is the people who have the entire power to turn a campaign around to be a success or a total fail. Especially in the case of a bad buzz, when people start to be suspicious or do not approve the campaign it is very hard for the brand/organization to stop it (snow ball effect). This is why launching a buzz campaign can have bad consequences or be a huge help for your organization, you cannot be a 100% sure.

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