Discover: o.b.'s Viral Apology Strategy

In the wake of last week's PayPal PR disaster, it's nice to see a company actually apologize for their mistakes with a little humility and marketing savvy. How hard is to say "We're sorry" when you screw up big time? Judging by PayPal and American Apparel, very. o.b. is a feminine hygiene production company that marketed itself as a discrete and tiny alternative to other brands. Earlier this year, demand skyrocketed, the supply line dried up, and the product was not available on the shelf for a long time. They also discontinued one of their four product lines around the same time. Here is the official message on their website.

Video, you say?

Yes. A video. o.b. knew they screwed up big time with their customers and have not only issued a formal apology, but turned it into a viable viral marketing opportunity.

If you go to their apology page, you can insert your name to receive a customized apology music video. Complete with gruff and gangly soft rock singer, 1980s music video cliches, and your name repeated in increasingly extravagant ways.

This works on an number of levels. One, it's easy to laugh at. That cuts any tension that might exist from the distribution and product availability issues.

Two, it's well-made. This isn't some slapdash effort to put a bandage on a gaping head wound. There's thought on display here that could pay out big dividends for the company.

Three, it's sincere. No company puts this much effort into saying "we're sorry" without meaning it. That'll go a long way.

Four, it's easy to share. See those Twitter and Facebook links on the bottom? Click those and you're spreading the o.b. apology to people who may have never heard of the company before. Even if you don't know why they're apologizing, you'll remember their name.

Brand awareness is the end-game here. The company scaled back on production because their wasn't enough demand, only to be met with higher demand than anticipated. This, in turn, meant people who wanted the product couldn't get the product. Now that the demand is still there and distribution has been increased, o.b. needs to guarantee that people buy the product they're making.

In apologizing to customers who were inconvenienced and aiming for the viral market, o.b. wisely sidesteps a stuffy PR disaster in favor of a more light-hearted approach that will get them more attention. It's strong marketing.

Coming Soon: The Cabin in the Woods (2012)

The Link Rally: 12 December 2011