The rise of the internet has allowed consumers to get closer to major global brands than ever. No longer is contacting a company about a product you'd like changed a matter of waiting for hours on the phone on writing a letter. Instead, Twitter and Facebook campaigns allow consumers constant engagement with the companies that they love (and hate).
In recent months, a few companies have found out about how involved their fans feel in the development of their products the hard way. Ubisoft have seemingly become the new company that video games fans love to hate, with a string of mismanaged game releases and PR disasters ensuring that their community agrees that Ubisoft has lost its way. Kraft have discovered the downside of buying a treasured company - in this case, Cadbury - with the immense public backlash against its changes to the Crème Egg.
Other companies have managed to please their customer base - and in doing so become remarkable success stories. EasyJet and Ryanair bucked against a bad year for airlines with impressive growth, thanks in part to a new policy of increased flexibility and better customer service. Ubisoft's long-standing rival Electronic Arts (EA) have made steps towards appeasing consumers, with many commentators proclaiming that they are no longer the pariah of the video game world.
It's easy to see all of those success stories as similar, victories for Twitter-activism or a new, friendly face for big business. In truth, however, each business has a different outlook and each change in behaviour is down to differing reasons and stakeholders.
For Ryanair, choosing to treat flyers better both with their product and with customer service was purely a business decision. EasyJet had begun to close the gap on its low cost rivals, and chairman Michael O'Leary saw one reason for the difference in performance. He admitted as much back in 2013, stating that easyjet had 'wiped the floor with us' by introducing flexible fares and treating its customers better. Ryanair duly followed suit and has been impressing shareholders ever since. Its value on the stock market has increased over 40% in the past year, driven by strong earnings even as key European rivals fade.
That change, then, came about from flyers voting with their wallets. By moving over to easyJet in droves, consumers forced Ryanair to pay attention. If Michael O'Leary thinks that his airline can make better profits from reverting to old ways, though, expect him to do just that.
Electronic Arts spent two years at the top of Consumerist's worst company of the year awards, earning that dubious title off of the back of unpopular policies like forcing an online presence for single player games (a move that often saw bugged releases that rendered new games unplayable), micro-transactions in games and the pushing of its own sales platform, Origin.
Even with a company that is supposedly failing to listen its customers, public outcry did force EA to change the ending to one of its products, Mass Effect 3. After controversy surrounding the apparently disappointing ending to the series, EA released a free add-on that both updated the end and appeased gamers. That move failed to secure EA much positivity, though, and the company was subsequently undone by the disastrous launches of games like Simcity and Battlefield 4.
Since then, EA has been going on a PR push with gamers. The reasons behind that PR push are not entirely clear - few companies have a CEO as forthright as Ryanair's - but it looks unlikely that shareholder pressure had much to do with it. Shortly after winning its first award in 2012, EA went on a remarkable run that saw its value increase over 200% in two and a half years.
Public outcries, then, can have the same effect as simply refusing to buy a company's product if you feel dissatisfied with it. What that means for the quality of Crème Eggs in 2015 remains to be seen.