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musing about facebook and enfranchisement

Cadbury’s used to make a chocolate bar called a Wispa. Some four years ago it was withdrawn, for some enterprise reason or the other. You know how these things happen.

Anyway, since its withdrawal, fans have clamoured for its reinstatement, but to no avail. Their voices lacked coherence, they weren’t visible.

In the post facebook world all this changed. The pressure group, all 14,000 of them, became visible and vocal. Via Facebook.

And Cadbury’s listened.

The chocolate bar will be reintroduced in October.

Markets are conversations.

I think I’ve already said this, but my memory is not what it used to be. Anyway, my next post on Facebook and the Enterprise will focus on the issue of enfranchisement. Watch this space.

Update: Here is a link to the story in the Herald Tribune.

Posted in Four pillars .


20 Responses

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  1. mike seyfang says

    Hey JP, great observation. Our friend Dave (LifeKludger) Wallace achieved a similar thing over here with Beetroot in Subway.

    Ask him about the ‘enterprise’ approach to institutional deafness in the call centre ;-)

    Fang – Mike Seyfang

  2. JP says

    Fang, good to see you here. See my reply to something Clarence fisher said about my citizen media post yesterday, we’re on the same track here….

  3. Mario Ruiz says

    JP,

    “Markets are conversations.” Great quote. We have forgotten for long time this is true. We used to based our decisions upon reviews from experts.

    It is a come back of this concept with the introduction of new technologies.

    Are we in need of a real-time business intelligence tool?

    Mario Ruiz
    @ http://www.oursheet.com

  4. Stephen Smoliar says

    JP, just to play the role of the “good editor” here, do you have the evidence (such as a press releas or a FINANCIAL TIMES report) that Cadbury actually “listened” to Facebook? My gut tells me that 14,000 is not necessarily the sort of number that would impact a decision in an enterprise on the scale of Cadbury. On the other hand the storyteller in me can come up with a variety of alternative narratives that could explain their decision to reinstate the Wispa. It would be nice to substantiate this account before it becomes an urban legend!

  5. Stephen Smoliar says

    On a more positive note in light of my recent attempts to clarify the terminology of social theory, I think it would be fairer to say that markets are interaction rituals:

    http://therehearsalstudio.blogspot.com/2007/08/interaction-rituals-introduction.html

    As a matter of fact, I would go so far as to say that markets would not function as effectively as they do were it not for the ritualistic elements in the interactions that take place. As I argued in my expository account of the terminology, this goes beyond conversations; and such generalizing can only improve our understanding of the nature of markets.

  6. JP says

    Mario, the phrase “markets are conversations” comes from a book called The Cluetrain Manifesto written in 2000. You should be able to view its companion site even now.

  7. JP says

    Stephen, I am travelling at present, and will confirm the details shortly. I believe the story has now been carried by either the Herald Tribune or the Wall St Journal. Once I get home I will dig up the story and link to it.

  8. JP says

    It was in the Herald Tribune. I have now updated the story with the link.

  9. Stephen Smoliar says

    JP, thanks for adding the link. There is no doubt that this is an interesting story, but I think it is a story that is just beginning! In my reading the most important paragraph is the following:

    Perhaps for this reason [the , Cadbury has not said whether Wispa will be restored for the long-term. For now, it has said only that it will produce 23 million bars, making them available for a test period of a few months.

  10. Stephen Smoliar says

    JP, thanks for adding the link. There is no doubt that this is an interesting story, but I think it is a story that is just beginning! In my reading the most important paragraph is the following:

    Perhaps for this reason [the question of "whether the vast scale of online campaigns like the one for Wispa reflects genuine support, or simply a trendy joke that snowballed"], Cadbury has not said whether Wispa will be restored for the long-term. For now, it has said only that it will produce 23 million bars, making them available for a test period of a few months.

    This seems like a judicious way of dealing with data of uncertain authority. Basically, Cadbury has decided to see if 14,000 demands on the Internet can be satisfied with a supply of 23 million candy bars. This is an experimental way of dealing with a subsequent paragraph in the article:

    If sales reflect the massive recent demand, then it would be difficult to ignore the wishes of the public, the company said.

    Cadbury may be a British firm. However, they seem to be well informed by the wisdom of that great icon of American journalism, Mister Dooley, who said (among other things), “Trust everyone, but cut the cards!” That goes for data as well as people!

  11. Dave - Lifekludger says

    Chocolate bars and Beetroot for consumers is good. And the power of social fabric to help the disenfranchised.

    This, obviously, all depends on the people having access to the technology and the ability to operate it.

    I wonder about the next level down, those who are marginalized to the point of no access – access to a social fabric, the technology or even the power of choice of food groups.

    There’s many levels to being disenfranhised. I like to see how the higher levels can help those lower and maybe extend the social fabric for social good.

    Dave – Lifekludger

  12. Nic says

    And now it’s Facebook vs HSBC !
    http://education.guardian.co.uk/students/finance/story/0,,2155763,00.html

  13. david cushman says

    hoo-hah! I think I’ll hold a wispa party! Big fan I was!

  14. Stephen Smoliar says

    Dave, your point about “having access to the technology and the ability to operate it” is definitely an important one. However, since I seem to have become the reader who can always find the cloud behind the silver lining, I quickly recognized another problem: The ability to “operate” a system can easily be turned into the ability to “game” it, i.e. distort the behavior to achieve personal gain. I was just reading about the “Chinese democracy” phenomenon that brought down the Italian fan site devoted to Guns N’ Roses, GNRonline.it. I read this in the same context as my own recent historical account of the deterioration of Usenet content. The risk is that anything that provides power to the disenfranchised can also end up providing power to the enfranchised to drive the disenfranchised back into disenfranchisement!

  15. Stephen Smoliar says

    I just posted the latest word on the HSBC story on my own blog at:

    http://therehearsalstudio.blogspot.com/2007/08/its-not-just-about-candy-bars.html

  16. Stott Pot says

    I have written a my reflections on this whole Facebook enfranchisement on my blog.
    I invite you to read it.

    http://stottpot.wordpress.com/

  17. JP Rangaswami says

    Thank you, I have visited the site and read the post and the about me. You may be interested in a later post of mine, sometime yesterday, on necessities and jaded tastes, which touches on the issue of west versus east as well.

    There have been many cases where one region’s trivial pastime is another region’s business. The outsourcing and offshoring of the actual play of the early stages in internet gaming is an example, where western students were contracting Indian students to “play” through a few levels of the games.

    Wispa may be a trivial example; the more recent stories about HSBC and student overdrafts, or the one Stephen Smoliar quoted, about Egypt and Hosni Mubarak, these are far more powerful.

Continuing the Discussion

  1. Today chocolate, tomorrow ….. ? « The Bankwatch linked to this post on August 28, 2007

    [...] What I find odd, although a sign of the times, is the phrase ‘web interest’ in this quote.  I think they mean ‘people interest’.  Hat tip JP. [...]

  2. Facebook Phenomena « Stottpot’s Weblog linked to this post on September 4, 2007

    [...] Tuesday September 04th 2007, 5:22 am Filed under: West meets East According to confused in calcutta, a Facebook group in UK has gained the power to make Cadbury reinstate it’s apparently much [...]

  3. Bloggled… « Stottpot’s Weblog linked to this post on September 6, 2007

    [...] of disenfranchised groups from Wispa lovers to Lefty [...]



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