Tuesday, November 28, 2006

i hate (brand name)

When you become a celebrity, some people will like you, but some will not.
There's an interesting article in the New York Times Magazine about this celebrity fate, showing the case of the "Rachel Ray Sucks Community".
Rachel Ray is not well known in Asia, but she's big in the US. She's a television food celebrity. She has her own TV show, her own magazine, has written many cooking books, and recently started her own talk-show. But what sets her apart is her ebullient character. According to Grant McCracken, "stylistically, Rachael Ray is the anti-Martha...Where Martha Stewart was cool, authoritative, self possessed, as if from the manor born, Rachael Ray is warm, improvisational, unassuming, and just folks. If Martha Stewart was ceremonial perfection to home making, Rachael Ray captures the "close enough is good enough" spirit that animates most American households."
Grant obviously thinks highly about Ray's approach, arguing that she's rescuing the rituals and meanings involved in food preparation and consumption, something that has been largely forgotten recently by TV food shows, with much of their focus being only on the food preparation (and not on what happens after the food is cooked). I've never watched her show but I tend to listen to what Grant says.
So, I was a little surprised that the number of Ray haters (how do you call them?) was so large. According to the NYT's article, the group has more than 1,000 members, whose common trait is to be "anti-Rachel". They criticize "...her cooking skills, her overreliance on chicken stock, her kitchen hygiene, her smile (often compared to the Joker’s), her voice, her physical mannerisms, her clothes, her penchant for saying “Yum-o” and so on. The general tone is suggested by the community’s name for the object of its united spite: “Raytard.” Ouch!
It came to mind that in this age of consumer activism, people are more than willing to share their dislike for a particular brand, forming these anti-fan groups. And brands (and if you become a celebrity, you become a brand, for good and for bad) inevitably will have to learn how to manage this sort of manifestation. Or, as Über-Planner Russell Davies says, brands will have to keep the conversation open.
Because even if you're very successful (or exactly because of it) there'll always be some people who will not like you. Take a look at this list compiled by Organic Frog. Apple, Nike, Starbucks, Ikea, Samsung, Tesco, PS3, Microsoft, all these brands (and many others) have very dissatisfied (not to say downright angry) consumers who'll go to great lengths to voice their opinions.

Walker, Rob. Anti-Fan Club. The New York Times Magazine. November 26, 2006. (here)

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