Best Buy’s Social-Media Image Collapse

Until today, WillVideoForFood didn’t have a “Greatest Corporate Social-Media CollapseAward, but it’s now going to the uncontested “winner.”

Best Buy, a company once known for its savvy social-media presence spearheaded by Barry Judge (seen below, searching for jobs at Circuit City), has gone from great to mediocre to embarrassing… in just a few months.

Barry Judge, Best Buy's Chief Marketing Officer Napping

Perhaps someone with the time and patience to run some social-media monitoring analysis can use a quantitative tool to validate Best Buy/Geek Squad’s sentiment decline (a free one, Radian6 or some others listed here). But here are three recent and vivid examples of a company whose arrogance — demonstrated by aggressive attorneys, PR apathy, and poor employee relations — has made it the undisputed 2010 winner (or loser). I’m sure someone else can better document numerous other episodes that precede and follow these, but here is what WVFF judges used to base their decision:

1) Geek Squad Driver Calls Cops on YouTuber: A Geek Squad (Best Buy’s beloved repair team) van driver spotted this blogger and video creator shooting some b-roll of a van. My intent? To make a parody of a technical repair superhero responding to absurd computer requests (can you fix my cup holder? Oh that’s a CD-ROM drive?). The video, which might have been a humorous and free consumer-generated advertisement for Geek Squad, instead resulted in this… seen by a quarter of a million viewers. The driver called the police and “Nalts” got a fine for reckless driving.

Hey I’m biased here, but you know that. I’m part of the story, and wasn’t thrilled to get pulled over and fined because a Geek Squad driver got paranoid (perhaps he feared I was doing a video expose on his wicked speeding). Sensing his unease, at a red light I handed him my business card, smiled, and explained my video concept. The NJ police officer said the driver interpreted that as threatening gesture and dangerous. Really? But we can forgive a company for a freaky driver, but it was poor form for Best Buy to ignore me. I wrote the company’s PR group, and a simple apology would have probably brought me right back. Did I mention I captured that driver again two weeks ago? I think he was selling ice-cream and crack cocaine this time, but don’t quote me on that.

2) Best Buy Intimidates Employee for Parody Video With No Mention of Creator’s Employer: Then there was poor Brian Maupin, a Best Buy employee who was fired (or as Best Buy would prefer you conclude: was suspended, rehired, and quit under duress) for this funny “iPhone vs HTC Evo” video seen by 7 million. The video didn’t mention the creator worked for Best Buy, and there’s this whole “freedom of speech” thing that Best Buy’s social-media policy seems to have forgotten. But Maupin knew the event undermined his chances to ascend to Assistant to the Regional Store Manager.

3) Geek Squad Sues Catholic Priest. Now the Geek Squad is protecting its rapidly-depreciating Geek Squad trademark (see undercover expose) by suing a priest who created a God Squad logo (readers of The National Catholic Register will no doubt boycott the store). While we understand trademark vigilance, we believe this Wisconsin Priest (Father Luke Strand) might have been handled with a bit more diplomacy, and agrees… calling it a “PR nightmare.” Yeah, when a corporation sues a priest… Catholics (and there are a few of us) aren’t going to be thinking about trademarks when we go elsewhere for our electronics.

Please comment below… and I invite anyone to defend each of Best Buy’s actions. It’s hard to give up on a company you love, and I’ve seen some interesting debates on various articles and blogs. I’d also like to invite anyone to join me on a 2010 boycott of Best Buy. There’s even a Facebook page to boycott Best Buy (apparently they fund anti-gay politics). I haven’t walked into the store since the po-po pulled me over, and the Maupin story gave me more resolve. But now they’re messing with a Priest? I read the Best Buy circular weekly, and never went more than 10 days without shopping there. But I’m done with the store for 2010. We’ll see if Barry or a well-meaning public-relations firm can turn this around, and revisit them in 2011.

Hey at least I have a great case study for the sequel to Beyond Viral (now available for pre-order on Amazon). Did I mention Amazon also sells electronics?

20 Replies to “Best Buy’s Social-Media Image Collapse”

  1. You can’t defend the indefensible, Best Buy has really bitten a turd and are going to chew it for a while.
    Only fitting since what they’ve done is bullshit!

  2. I totally agree with you 100%. This whole thing has gotten out of hand. Please don’t lose the mojo forever. I still want to watch you and your kids do stupid and yet funny skits and pranks. I understand why you haven’t made videos lately. I’d be the same way. Just know that you have fans that still care about you and your videos!! I’ll give you a discount on my perc! 18 a pill. Marked down from 20. 🙂


  3. Nalts gets all politically and junk

    when’s the rally and do we bring our own signs?
    (there’s a fun photoshop opportunist)

    a rally or PS sign contest would make a great video if it didn’t end up as PR for BB <— see I'm not even saying their name.


  4. Best Buy is always too expensive anyway. I stopped going there years ago now that everything is so much cheaper online. Plus, they never really seemed to have what I was looking for. They seem to have a little bit of everything but not a whole lot of selections for anything unless you’re looking for a tv or something. And did I mention it’s all over-priced?

  5. Yet another example of what may arise from failure to comply with what I like to call Slater’s First Law of New Communication in the 21st Century:

    “Never speak to anyone about anything, ever.”

  6. I have a great deal of experience in the consumer electronic service and support world. My opinion of the service departments for large chains is that they are nothing more than an arm of the sales department. What I mean by that is that the employees are typically underpaid and undereducated to their assigned task and are only able to support the product through the end of factory warranty using the most basic troubleshooting techniques. Once the warranty runs, it is the job of the technician to sell the customer a new widget. Even if the widget can be fixed. I’ve heard stories about a certain large chain whose name begins with S**** just dropping disassemble equipment on the front stoop of a customers home and leaving.

    It’s no surprise to me, the reaction that you got from this “Geek Squad” geek, I’d bet he was relieved that you weren’t a spy from the company intent on catching him off of his route.

  7. So, if I haven’t bought anything at Best Buy in several years, and have no intention of starting anytime soon, does that mean I’m part of the boycott? Glad to help.

  8. Best Buy lost me a long time ago anyway. I, too, had a Best Buy rant stage due to the whole Firewire, thinking I wasted 400 dollars due to employee incompetence saga. I would suggest you guys google into it, but if I annoy you all now, I would not want any of you to read the stupid things I wrote when I was younger.

  9. I know it’s kind of a long haul for you Nalts but I totally recommend using Micro Center for all your computer needs. They have a great selection and much better prices than Best Buy.

  10. I used to shop at Best Buy DESPITE their high prices, JUST for their “black tie protection”.

    Yah, I paid $100 for a warranty on my xbox 360. Took it in for a minor (meaning the thing still WORKED) problem, and 2 months and 4 refurbs later, I still don’t have a working one.

    Their answer? Bring it in again. At this point I wish I would have NEVER brought it in. They’ve made NO attempt to resolve the issue (replace with a new, even lower spec one) or even refund my warranty price. NOTHING.

    I believe it’s their intent to just give me the run around for another 4 months till my warranty expires.

  11. Sounds like Best Buy continues to win the hearts and wallet of America. I’m proud to say that I’ve only made one flub in my protest since GeekSquadgate (I needed a mac adapter). Total money they’ve lost on me (never mind the hundreds of thousands that watched this apology-free incident) is well over $1500-$3000.

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