Best Buy Learns The Streisand Effect Is Very Real

There is not a doubt in my mind Best Buy wants to be social. Strategically, they have been a regular case study for holistic use of the web. Their tactical execution is usually pretty good (ex: check out their Twelpforce account on Twitter).

I have even spoken on a panel with Brad Smith, interactive marketing director at Best Buy who clearly gets it. And yet. Their actions as a company show that they still have a long way to go. They have very consistent reputation management issues across social web platforms, subjectively one of the worst I’ve seen for a major consumer brand. Also their perception amongst the tech savvy is dismal.

So you’d think they wouldn’t go out of their way to do things that would awake the hive mind of the web. You’d think.

Recently generically poked fun at Best Buy’s geek squad by publishing the following commercial:

All in good fun, companies do this all the time. And to be perfectly honest there is a lot of truth in advertising to this.

Except what happened next? Best Buy sent a C&D letter to Newegg. Next, Newegg promptly posted it to their Facebook wall (as they should). And by sending the cease and desist, Best Buy basically invoked the Streisand Effect.

Until today, I didn’t even realize Newegg ran TV commercials. But thanks to Best Buy, I now know (and so do you, and so do all of Consumerist’s readers as well as all of Reddit).

Here’s just part of the C&D letter:

The fact that Best Buy thinks they own the word “geek” is pretty bad (if not a bit arrogant). But that’s not even the worst part of this situation, at least from my perspective. What is?

Best Buy is antagonizing a brand with fiercely loyal and technology savvy fans

Newegg is frequented by truly technology savvy consumers. Their customers are well-connected and frequently sought after by friends, family and businesses for advice about tech purchasing decisions. The commercial above perfectly targeted Newegg’s market, who I am sure had a laugh about Best Buy. But here’s the thing: it didn’t present any information they didn’t already know.

While some do, certainly not all Newegg fans necessarily hate Best Buy. But most real geeks do have affinity for Newegg. So imagine, your favorite brand gets a C&D from another, larger competitor. You might have previously referred someone to them in a pinch even if it wasn’t your first choice. After an act where they throw their legal team on your favorite brand, you’d be a bit more hesitant to make a referral wouldn’t you?

The comments from Newegg fans reinforce this, with the sentiment being as you’d expect when antagonizing a passionate group:

Some additional thoughts

Can brands who are quick to bring in legal teams in situations of clear fair use or parody, either with competitors or fans, really be considered social? Can we really think a company is serious about having discussions when something isn’t to their liking and they react by freaking out and sending cease and desist letters?

But I guess the biggest question is do brands like this really understand the web? They have to know this is going to generate ill will and cause a target market who already may be skeptical of them to defect even farther away. Also, they have to know that a company like Newegg is not going to back down without a fight. Or maybe they don’t?

I’m just not sure what they possibly have to gain here. This seems like yet another example where a company ruins their brand reputation without good reason. The part that really gets me is the Newegg video wasn’t the issue, their reaction to it was. They turned a non-event into something for the web to easily rally against.

A little common sense here could have gone a long way. The lesson which we see again and again is clear: think carefully about the damage your legal team can inflict on your reputation before you let them act.