Retailers, brands can fight cyber-bullies

December 30, 2010

As family-oriented businesses, supermarkets should always seek new ways to differentiate

As family-oriented businesses, supermarkets should always seek new ways to differentiate – while making household heads feel more secure that their wellness and interests align with those of the store. This is small payback for the household’s 2+ average trips per week to put food and beverage on the home table. It is one reason why many retailers help families rebound from dire circumstances (a house fire or debilitating injury), support local food banks, and sponsor youth sports teams as regular activities – to let area consumers easily see that the store appreciates their business and stands behind them.

There’s a less-visible problem that could imperil the lives of teens and tear families apart. It is cyber-bullying. News reports have shown the potential of teen suicide and devastated families when it goes on unchecked, and especially when vulnerable personalities are the subject of this cruelty. Cyber-bullying is a torment for today’s times – with Facebook, Twitter and plain old cell phone messaging taking up so much of a teen’s average day – unlike decades ago when spoken lies didn’t remain permanently etched on the Internet.

Food store and brand marketers, who grew up in an earlier age when permanent smears were much tougher to perpetrate, ought to view 2011 as their opportunity to once again show they’re on the right side of families – with education and messaging programs that make cyber-bulling uncool and help arrest a damaging behavior that appears to be on the rise. The Lempert Report urges that stores and brands use their own websites and sophisticated social media techniques to make cyber-bullies the shunned ones.  

As Jeffrey Rohrs, head of ExactTarget’s Marketing Research & Education Group, suggested earlier this month on MediaPost’s Engage: Teens, maybe cyber-bullies could be blocked as punishment.  

Meanwhile, The Lempert Report would like to see an ongoing barrage of messages that educate parents about the dangers of cyber-bullying, how to handle it if their children are involved, even ‘success’ case studies of how situations got defused.  To chief household shoppers who are often overly busy moms, this kind of support would be a most welcome differentiator – perhaps even more so if stores enlisted some of their younger, tech-savvy employees to help identify possible instances of cyber-bullying, and became part of a resolution loop that included parents and potentially school authorities, Internet service providers and law enforcement officials.