It’s amazing the advantages/disadvantages that social media has provided companies with regards to brand awareness and customer communication. One company is learning all too well the ability of customer communication with companies after fans of a local soap company lashed out at Oasis brand juices, Lassonde Industries Inc of Rougemont, Quebec.
The story started in 2004 when Ms. Kudzman fulfilled her dreams of owning her own business, Olivia’s Oasis soap products. But within a short year the company was slapped with a lawsuit from the juice company Oasis over trademark infringement. Ms. Kudzman was even sent a formal letter from the company demanded that she not only stop using their name, recall all of her merchandise from local stores and pay Lassonde any profits she may have earned while using their name. “To me it was utter nonsense,” she said.
The two companies finally went to court in 2010, and the judge ruled that there was no "gaping visual dissimilarities" between the two companies, noting that one product was editable and one was not. The judge awarded Ms. Kudzman damages noting that Lassonde engaged in `menacing and abusive conduct.`` Lassonde of course appealed the decision, and the three-judge appeal panel finalized their judgement March 30 of this year noting that Lassonde`s did not overstep their bounds and the appeal panel overturned the financial decision to award Ms. Kudzman damages and the cost of her legal fees.
Several days ago the National Post reported on this story, noting that the producers of Oasis brand juices won their important court victory of trademark infringement against a small local soap producer. Over the past few days the Oasis juice brand`s Facebook page has been bombarded with complaints from consumers, "Shame on Oasis" reads one typical message posted on their Facebook page and it just got worse from there. Within hours of the news report, Lassonde was literally living a PR nightmare with the large amounts of negative comments from consumers on not only their Facebook page, but also their Twitter page. (I was just on their Facebook page and it seems all of the negative comments have been removed). Of course it doesn`t help the Oasis brand that popular TV host Guy A. Lepage tweeted to more than 100,000 followers that he would no longer be drinking Oasis just in protest of Lassonde`s decision to go after "the little guys. "
Of course showcasing the power of social media, Lassonde did not enjoy the large amounts of consumer backlash from consumers, the company decided to send a senior executive to meet with Ms Kudzman two days after to news story broke to offer to cover all of her legal costs.
Jean Gattuso, COO of Lassonde said in an interview on Monday that "we are entrepreneurs. We are people who react quickly to situations. We are in business to sell products, and we didn`t like our consumers to be angry with us. We didn`t like the situation at all, and we reacted."
On the flip side, Ms Kudzman was both surprised and honoured to received such overwhelming support from the general public for her business, "Ì could never in my wildest dreams have imagined the viral aspect of it. I think it`s almost unprecedented in Quebec. I spend seven years fighting this, and within basically 48 hours, because of the outpouring of support, it was resolved. "
An important note to take away from this article is the amount of damage Lassonde`s reputation sustained over the weekend is much greater than any potential confusion in brand awareness between the two companies.