David Jones: corporate good and empty rhetoric

Adam Tinworth
Adam Tinworth

David jones le web

That’s a first – David Jones apparently needed an advert for himself before he walked on stage at Le Web. Sadly for him, but to the relief of the audience, it froze and they started the chat earlier.

This was a very disappointing talk. Jones clearly understands the basics of the new communications dynamics of the social media age, but he wrapped what he was saying in such fluffy optimism that he ended up undermining his won argument.

Any individual can organise against the corporates that displease them, he suggested. Correct. They can find out everything about the company, and share it in real time across the web. This is the Age of Damage – where failure to manage your reputation via social media leaves you vulnerable. (Nice bit of branding there.)

Is his book “really obvious”? Yes, to young people, he suggests, but not to the white Anglo-Saxon males that popular boardrooms. But that younger generation won’t work for – or buy from – companies that aren’t grounded in these ideas. The new price of doing well is doing good. The rules of business are the same as for social media: authenticity, transparency and speed. Dior fired Galliano when he made racist comments quickly, rather than agonising over it. Mitt Romney spent too long hiding from the tax issue, says Jones.

He’s over-selling this argument, though. When challenged about the “mob mentality” of Twitter, he claimed that he couldn’t think of a single example of when the crowd was wrong. How about the Lord McAlpine situation? The crowd was very wrong there.

Two thirds of brands in the world wouldn’t be missed if they disappeared tomorrow, he says.

His company does work encouraging other businesses to integrate social good into their marketing mix. That’s a worthy aim – but by ending up recreating the stereotype of a fluffy fact-free corporate do-gooder, which undermined his laudable goals.

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Adam is a lecturer, trainer and writer. He's been a blogger for over 20 years, and a journalist for more than 30. He lectures on audience strategy and engagement at City, University of London.