Would you criticize a brand you covet as a client?

starbucksThis morning, Ben Kunz, posted a simple, “I hate you Starbucks,” on Twitter in response to the brand now charging for its WiFi.  My response,  “Guess they won’t be a client anytime soon,” was half joke and half question.  Kudos to Ben for speaking his mind and explaining why.  But it does raise this question: Do you, should you, would you criticize a brand that you hope to work with or for someday, either as an agency or an employee?

The same question came up in another conversation in a recent meeting with future millennial bloggers. The group was working on subjects for upcoming posts and one theme suggested was this generations’ view of brands: how brands talk to Millennials, what they get right and especially wrong, how they portray accurately and inaccurately the lifestyle of young adults in this age group.

One writer expressed concern about whether or not she’d feel comfortable calling out a brand — whether it was clueless or not — if her agency coveted it as a client. Would it come back to bite her?  Or would her honesty be appreciated and valued?

But my conclusion is this. It’s in everyone’s interest to express that criticism as long as it has some constructive aspect to it. Most brands, if only a little enlightened, will appreciate it. Or should. It’s the same reason you send back a bad wine, or an overcooked dish. It’s not simply about getting out your complaint or receiving your money’s worth, it’s a chance to help a company or service you might want or need in your life to get better.

Social media simply makes the act of honest criticism more visible. It expands the conversation and allows others to weigh in. For Starbucks, which claims to believe in listening, 1000 RTs of “I hate Starbucks,” would be great for the coffee chain.  It would give them real time insight to how customers felt. How useful is that?

What about you? Will you call out a brand that you hope to work for? Or will you conceal how you feel out of fear?