Ocean Marketing PR implodes with poor customer service emails

Social media marketing company, Ocean Marketing, has shot itself in the foot with this PR gaffe and mobilised the gamer community with an email exchange that went viral.
Written by Eileen Brown, Contributor on

Social media marketing company Ocean Marketing has shot itself in the foot with this PR gaffe, highlighted by Penny Arcade the other day.

Penny Arcade is a web comic focused on video games and video game culture. One of the creators is Mike Krahulik, also known as 'Gabe'.

A customer, 'Dave', ordered 2 Avenger PlayStation 3 controllers, made by N-Control for delivery before December 24th and asked about the status of his order. The Ocean Marketing PR lead, Paul Christoforo and Dave entered into an email conversation. This email exchange was initially polite, but it quickly descended into a PR disaster as Penny Arcade and other news sites became involved.

You can read the entire email thread on Penny Arcade.  Here is a screenshot of the start of the exchange of emails between Dave and Christoforo:

Damage Limitation

Since Penny Arcade posted this exchange on 27th December there have been more PR problems for Ocean Marketing.

Ocean Marketing renamed its Twitter account from '@Oceanmarketting' to '@OceanStratagy' presumably to avoid any association with the torrent of abuse directed towards the Twitter account. The @OceanMarketting account was quickly taken over by someone calling himself 'Mark Etting' who is taking advantage of the PR opportunity to promote Indie games and gaming charities.

Christoforo sent two further emails to Penny Arcade, initially saying that attorneys for Ocean Marketing would be in touch. Later that day another email arrived apologising for the way that the email thread progressed.

This apology appeared to be too little, too late. Christoforo no longer works with N-Control. N-Control is now carrying out damage control actions and dealing with negative reviews on Amazon. It also released a press release confirming that it had "categorically dismissed" the third party contractor.

Social lessons

There are lessons to be learned here for social customer service teams:

  • Don't be shocked if a private email exchange ends up on the Internet.  An email exchange is not private if it is sent outside of your corporate boundary.
  • Email is not even private if it remains within corporate boundaries. Even if your internal email is protected by Digital Rights Management systems, photographs can still be taken of the email on the screen itself and published online.
  • Poor customer service examples can quickly be broadcast to a much wider audience.
  • Treat the customer with respect.
  • Late apologies mean nothing.  Apologise for your mistakes early.  Be aware that the damage may already have been done.
  • Changing your Twitter alias is simple.  Changing perception about your actions is not so easy.
  • Be aware that flippant comments can be misconstrued.
  • Be aware that your words can mobilise a community to support you -- or rail against your actions.

And most of all, anyone dealing with customers online should be aware that when things go wrong, they can go wrong quickly and dramatically -- at the speed of a mouse click.

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