Companies need to pay attention to what's being said about them on blogs but blogs are not all-powerful and blogs did not bring Kryptonite to its knees in 2004.
Kryptonite knew about the postings on Bikeforums.net from a very early stage. It was not "clueless", a claim made earlier this year by David Sifry, CEO of Technorati, a blog tracking and search company based in San Francisco.
He told thedeal.com that Ingersoll-Rand could have limited the damage to its brand if it had used a service to track its reputation on the web. "Instead, the manufacturer was clueless for days that its Kryptonite locks were under digital assault and had to offer a lock exchange program that it estimated at the time would cost it $10 million."
See the links below for background to this story.
BikeBiz.com was the first news site to report on the Bikeforums.net posting and made the first comment about the Bic vulnerability being first reported in the UK in 1992. This fact was later picked by the Boston Globe, the New York Times, Wired.net, CNN.com and other mainstream new sites. Kryptonite itself did not know about the 1992 Bic vs locks article from a now defunct British cycle magazine and nor was Kryptonite mentioned in the magazine article but that didn't stop lawyers launching class actions against Kryptonite, citing URLs from BikeBiz.com.
BikeBiz.com is referenced by a contributor to Dave Taylor's widely-read The Intuitive Life Business Blog.
According to this blog, Taylor "has been involved with the Internet since 1980 and is widely recognized as an expert on both technical and business issues. He has been published over a thousand times, launched four Internet-related startup companies, has written nineteen business and technical books and holds both an MBA and MS Ed."
Yesterday, his blog featured a long interview with Kryptonite's PR manager, Donna Tocci.
Tocci was the PR manager during the 'Bic crisis'.
Introducing his interview, Taylor said: "I'll admit up front that my bias is that the adverse effect of the blogosphere on corporations is much overblown, and as you'll see as you read this Q&A, Donna thinks so too. That's not to say that blogs and bloggers aren't an influential voice in the marketplace, but just to help clarify that there are still definite limits to its influence and it's well to keep that in mind as you craft your next marketing plan or public relations budget."
BIKEBIZ.COM BIC/LOCK ARTICLE INDEX
13th May 2005: Kryptonite becomes wedded to the B-word
Blogs. If you're not writing one, you're nobody. Or so it seems in the blogosphere. When the mass media now mentions the word blog, the name Kryptonite isn't far behind. And this is unfair because Kryptonite wasn't taken to task by bloggers, it was a forum wot did it. 'Blog tracking and search' companies don't see it like this, though. a CEO from one such company has just told TheDeal.com that Kryptonite was "clueless" about the "digital assault" on its reputation. Not true, but the news piece does reveal that Ingersoll Rand, owner of Kryptonite, has appointed a blog watcher...
Wednesday 16th March 2005: What does Kryptonite Corp think about blogging?
Steve Down, the English general manager of the Kryptonite Corporation of America, is facing the media this week. He's painfully aware that September 2004's Kryptonite vs Bic problem is the "poster child" for the power of internet chat-rooms to influence corporations. Kryptonite was on the receiving end of thousands of online complaints, starting on bikeforums.net. The company has recently settled one of the class action suits filed against it in the US and Canada.
Monday 10th January 2005: Bic vs Kryptonite to be case-study in PR textbook
'Cases in Public Relations Management' will be published in the US by McGraw-Hill Publishing and is to feature the online brand mauling suffered by the Kryptonite Corp in Autumn 2004.
Tuesday 28th December 2004: US distributor of OnGuard locks has a dig at Kryptonite
The European lock company has long known about the vulnerabilities of cylinder locks and has shunned their use. Todson, the lock brand's US distributor, has today issued a press release that knocks Kryptonite, even though Kryptonite has voluntarily recalled the locks which could be opened with Bic pens.
Wednesday 17th November 2004: Kryptonite, rejoice, it's now Oxford Products taking the heat
The December edition of Ride, the British motorcycle magazine has an "exclusive investigation" on the Bic lock opening trick that's been exercising minds in the bicycle trade since September. However, the four-page piece fingers tubular cylinder locks from Oxford Products rather than Kryptonite. "It's possible some Kryptonite locks are affected," said the Google-averse writer of the article.
Wednesday 6th October 2004: Kryptonite lock replacements to ship to public before dealers
That's the consumer-focussed message being promoted from the busy Kryptonite booth at the Interbike trade show in Las Vegas. Kryptonite launched its recall programme after a US consumer posted a Quicktime movie to a forum, showing how tubular cylinder locks could be opened with Bic barrels. The exchange locks will ship from the beginning of next week via UPS, after being airfreighted from the Far East.
Saturday 2nd October 2004: MasterLock stung into recall action
When Kryptonite's Bic problems surfaced, Master Lock of the US issued a statement saying its top-end locks were immune to pen-attack. The fact the company also produced u-locks with cylinder tubular mechanisms was not majored on. Master Lock did not follow Kryptonite and launch a recall programme: until now, that is. News of this went on masterlock.com on Friday
Wednesday 29th September 2004: Brand attack: how many ways can consumers tell you they're unhappy?
At first, disbelief. Anger follows. Tort lawyers then smell blood and launch putative class actions. Is sarcasm the last stage or merely another point along the road? A US consumer has placed Kryptonite replacement keys on Ebay. They're felt tip pens. "If you really bid on this, you missed the point of the auction, but I will still gladly take your money anyways," said russw19.
Friday 24th Sept 2004: Bike bosses round on round-key lock makers
Gordon Fisher, MD of Fisher Outdoor Leisure, has told BikeBiz.com he and other bicycle trade execs were interviewed by newsreader John Humphries on BBC Radio 4 on 3rd December 1992. The subject matter? Bike locks which could be opened with Bic pen barrels. Prices for locks secured with ACE mechanisms dropped overnight, indicating the Bic method was well known at the time. Nigel Moore, MD of Moore Large, said: "It does our industry no good if the public are ripped off."
Monday 20th Sept 2004: Bikeforums.net hit by upsurge in Bic-fondling visitors
As of late Sunday night, the Kryptonite vs Bic posting on Bikeforums.net had been read 340 000 times, and the movies, hosted elsewhere, downloaded by half a million unique users. Forum owner Joe Gardner, who holds down a full-time job and runs the site in his spare time, is now out of pocket because he had to lease extra gigabytes of server space to cope with the rush on his site following reports on CNN.com, Wired.com, 370+ news-sites, and a front page splash in the New York Times.
Wednesday 22nd Sept 2004: Cycling attorney files class action against Kryptonite
The class action has been filed at the San Diego Superior Court Case, California. Despite the fact many lock manufacturers supply security products which can be opened with deformable plastic tubes - such as Bic pen barrels - it's only Kryptonite mentioned in the class action. Attorney firm Estey-Bomberger bases its action on Kryptonite's failure to change from tubular cylinder mechanisms after the Bic-opening method was first publicised in a British bicycle magazine in 1992. BikeBiz.com is cited as a source of evidence in the class action.
Wednesday 22nd September 2004: Kryptonite does not win 'dilution' case against DC Comics, owner of Superman brand
Ingersoll-Rand's Kryptonite execs are probably seeing more lawyers than they like right now. On top of the Bic wrangle, DC Comics has come out best in the first stage of a long-running dispute over the use of the name usually associated with Superman.
Thursday 23rd September 2004: Kryptonite changes tack; offers free product exchanges
Last week, Kryptonite came out with a caveat-heavy crossbar upgrade programme. This has now been scrapped. Now, owners of Kryptonite tubular cylinder locks - the ones that can be opened with Bic pens - can hand in their locks in an amnesty programme that will see them walk away with free locks. No other supplier of locks using ACE cylinders have announced any sort of exhange programme.
Friday 24th September 2004: $200m locks lawsuit launched against Kryptonite and others
A class action against Kryptonite was filed in California earlier this week. Now, a Canadian lawyer has launched a lawsuit to help gain compensation for "hundreds of thousands" of bicycle lock owners. Significantly, Sack Goldblatt Mitchell of Toronto names not just Kryptonite in the suit but Norco and Bike Guard, too. The company says it will also add "bicycle retailers" to the list.
Saturday 18th September 2004: Kryptonite was not too slow to respond to consumer attacks, says Tocci
Donna Tocci is getting lots of media name-checks at the moment. She's the Kryptonite spokeswoman quoted in hundreds of news-site articles syndicated across the US and beyond. She believes Kryptonite has acted as swiftly as it could, given the circumstances.
Thursday 16th September 2004: Write it down to experience, Kryptonite to offer lock upgrades
Sheath those Bics, Kryptonite is to offer owners of Evolution and KryptoLok locks the ability to upgrade their crossbars to the new disc-style cylinder. The mechanism for this has yet to be worked out, says the company.
Thursday 16th September 2004: The pen is mightier than the....u-lock
In a bizarre case of coincidental product syncronicity, the plastic barrel of a certain type of biro can easily open a certain type of tubular cylinder locking mechanism, popular on u-locks. This was first described in a British bicycle magazine in 1992 but the issue then disappeared from public view. But, in a powerful demonstration of how quick and cruel the internet can be, an American cyclist has rediscovered the Bic-pick and posted a Quicktime movie to a bike bulletin board, showing a Kryptonite lock being popped open in seconds. Kryptonite has responded, but slowly...