Like many of us, I regularly receive emails asking me to pass on information about various viral campaigns. Today’s topic is fuel prices – the content of this particular email is that boycotting selected oil companies will lead to a reduction in pump prices. Snopes.com tracks this urban legend back to 2001 (before debunking the logic of the email’s argument).
There are variations on the theme – which I find quite interesting. Rather than simply passing on an email, someone obviously takes the time to amend the detail, such as the profession of the said originator, “Philip Hollsworth” who is reported as a mathematician, economist, even the “bass player for punk band innSincere“.
As I noted recently with the Facebook hoax, it doesn’t take two minutes via Google to check out the veracity of such messages – even if you aren’t naturally cynical.
A PR contact in the fuel business reports losing count on the number of times this email has circulated – which is another interesting aspect in terms of how such urban myths come and go in waves.
As my contact advises, one of the critical aspects of fuel prices in the UK is the level of tax and duty, which the suggested boycott will not affect. I’m not so sure I agree with my petrolhead contact’s “well-known fact” that the UK enjoys some of the lowest cost petrol in Europe, based on comparisons with what my parents pay in France (let alone the benefits of a short-drive up to Andorra).
The United Kingdom Petroleum Industries Association’s web site: http://www.ukpia.com includes some publications on the topic of fuel prices. The source, of course, reflects a vested interest – but show how the industry is not likely to be as easily influenced as the fuel fools and eternal optimists circulating the boycott email may hope.
An interesting question for PR practitioners is what to do about such emails. The obvious strategy is to ignore them – as I said, there is plenty of information available from independent sources online to debunk them. But should the motivation of people to pass on such messages be ignored? Does having your brand mentioned in such viral campaigns have any impact?
It seems a holy grail of many marketers/PRs in respect of new media to originate a viral message that promotes a brand – quite another issue though when you are on the negative receiving end of such missives. Even when they are totally rubbish.