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Blog Post

MAY
14
2013

Online Branding Lessons Small Businesses Can Learn from the Amy’s Baking Company Meltdown

To put it bluntly, the poop hit the fan for Amy’s Baking Company this week. After being profiled very negatively on Fox’s popular “Kitchen Nightmares” — the online brand for the Scottsdale based bakery was set ablaze by viewers of the TV program after seeing  the restaurant’s chef and namesake continually berate employees and otherwise meltdown on camera. The rants migrated online to the company’s Facebook page after the show aired. If you like watching trainwrecks, you’ll want to look at their Facebook feed.

Now, a day later, the company’s answer to their behavior on Facebook? Our website was hacked! Hacked? I highly doubt it. For more on the specifics of Social Media Do’s and Don’ts read this article.

amy_hacked

A Buzzfeed report chronicles the lowhighlights of the restaurant’s rants and interactions; and their behavior is doing nothing but generating likes on their own Facebook page. Initially the page had around 2,200 likes, and as I write this, likes have eclipsed 25K! 

Unfortunately, this negativity is not restricted to just the company’s Facebook page.

A search for Amy’s Baking reveals the following results:

Amy's Baking Co Search Results

The first result, the official site for the restaurant appears to be compromised. That message is a strong deterrent to customers who may actually be interested in dining at the restaurant. The following results are for Yelp (negative review being shown), the recent blitz of negative news articles, and a link to their Facebook page. It isn’t until you get to the bottom of the page that there is any positive results for the restaurant. Any business can succeed without spending a ton of money online. The key is to extend and promote your brand in a positive manner (social media), develop a loyal following (search and social), and embrace those 20% of your customers that generate 80% of your revenue. That is a fairly consistent formula that has been around for a long time.

Lesson #1: Your brand is a living breathing thing. Nurture it.
Behaving like a wild person and verbally abusing people (in private or in front of a national TV audience), does nothing to improve how people view your business. You can make the best product in the world, but if you’re a raving lunatic, then that will undermine your ability to sell or grow loyal customers. Treat your customers, employees and vendors with respect; let them know you appreciate them.

Lesson #2: You are your brand.
In the case of Amy’s Baking Co — the owner’s name is on the sign. She’s a fixture in the restaurant — she is extremely visible, and because of their exposure on television, she (and her husband) are the face of their business. Everything they do and say reflects on their business. React poorly to a customer’s complaint, yell at an employee, do anything that could be viewed negatively by your customers or employees and that will eventually hurt your sales and traffic.

Lesson #3: You do not control your brand.
Lessons 2 & 3 seem like they contradict each other. This can be a difficult concept for some, but in the age of social media and endless arenas for reviews, no brand has sole control of itself, especially online. Exhibit A. If a brand executes Lesson #1 successfully, then customers become evangelists and recruit new customers. The cost to you, the business owner? Simply providing a quality product, service, or experience. When things went south for Amy & Co, angered people — most who have never been nor will be customers — it happened quickly, and on hundreds of sites outside of Amy’s control. There is no coming back from something like that. That negative material will now forever live online, and many of the results will be extremely visible in search results when someone searches for the brand.

How can a small business come back from a social media meltdown?

If a small business brand has been damaged beyond repair, the only option may be to rebrand. Rebranding a business is expensive endeavor. For larger brands, some experts say the cost of rebranding a business is roughly 20% more than it’s original inception.

Amy’s could very well recover. They could start by embracing those people who really do support them, and are regulars to the restaurant. They could host a special dinner for supporters of the restaurant, and try to generate some positive feedback. They could promote the event on Facebook and  document the evening with photos and video from the evening.

Some restaurants that are incredibly abrasive (in jest) are actually very successful. I have been to a bar in Las Vegas where the wait staff is incredibly surly with customers. It is all done in fun, and most servers could tell if the customers were comfortable with the abrasiveness.

I have to wonder if the Soup Nazi method works in real life. The Soup Nazi (Seinfeld character)  is a chef so intimidating, his customers are actually too scared to order. It might not work with fine dining, but maybe another less stuffy type of fair.

So the options are slim, expensive, and difficult to implement post meltdown.

I need to disclose that my wife and I have been to the restaurant several times for breakfast and also for dessert and coffee. I found the food to be good, not spectacular but good enough to go back.

On my final visit it took an extremely long time for everyone in our party to get served and there were a couple of mistakes with the order, so I just chose to not go back. There are tons of very good restaurants in Scottsdale, so my family has taken Amy’s out of our rotation.

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About the Author
I have more than 20 years experience in online marketing, including close to a decade focused on SEO. While SEO has always be my core competency, I also provide a variety of other services to my clients including: Paid search management Social media consulting & optimization (integration with SEO) Landing page development & conversion optimization Offsite channel optimization (YouTube, 3rd party ecommerce sites, etc) Content strategy & development