Tone And Flexibility (And We’re Not Talking About Exercise)

The tone of a company’s communications, although a subtle trait, can be one of the most distinctive dimensions of its brand. That’s certainly the case with Groupon, the internet company that offers subscribers e-mailed “group coupons” that only become valid if enough people buy them. The company is one of the most successful web start-ups out there right now (It recently turned down a $6 billion buy-out offer from Google), and while its business concept is smart, it owes at least some of its success to the tone of its marketing copy, which is well-known for its literacy, absurdity, and irreverence.

But as PR Daily’s Kevin Allen recently blogged, Groupon’s trademark snark doesn’t work for every situation. Last month, Groupon e-mailed one of its coupons with a broken link—an amateurish mistake for a web-based business, and a serious one for its client. The company’s response? They sent a follow-up e-mail with the subject line: “We sent you a broken link…Computers aren’t really our strong suit.”

It seems that Groupon was just trying to be consistent in its tone. That tone wasn’t appropriate in this instance, though, and Groupon should have been flexible. A broken link? “It happens,” Allen writes. “But if your company is Groupon, and a client is waiting for customers to pour in—but they won’t because of a broken link—you apologize and make up for it.”

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