All too often companies are worried about ‘looking boring’, or being overshadowed in their sectors, but this doesn’t mean you should necessarily jump on the latest trend or shoehorn your product into whatever hashtag is currently circling the internet. You don’t want to be forgotten about, but it’s important that you get noticed for the right reasons.
From the Kendall Jenner Pepsi debacle, to Crocs tweeting about David Bowie’s passing, the internet is full of examples of how brands can humiliate themselves, or worse, with just one ill-advised post.
1. Beware the hashtag
A clever hashtag can be a great way to encourage consumers to engage with your brand or share memories, thoughts or even suggestions, but you need to be careful about your choice of wording. Hashtags don’t have any spaces, which can lead to miscommunication or inappropriate interpretations.
Following the passing of former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, people began using #nowthatchersdead – a lack of capitalisation and with no room for spaces meant that many people thought pop icon Cher had died – leading to lots of confusion online. While this wasn’t connected to one brand, it shows how careful you have to be – there are also several not safe for work examples we could have used to show just how things can go wrong…
While there are pitfalls to creating your own tag, it’s equally important that you’re careful if you’re going to use someone else’s. Check the context! While the Thatcher/Cher dilemma left people confused, sticking your brand messaging onto a hashtag without researching it can cause offence and damage to your reputation.
Frozen pizza brand DiGiorno made a fundamental blunder back in 2014 when it failed to look into #WhyIStayed before putting out a ‘witty’ tweet.
The tag was in fact being used by domestic violence survivors and campaigners to raise awareness. While the brand did not intend to cause offence, within minutes it had been inundated with comments from those who were outraged by the tweet. DiGiorno swiftly removed the post and issued personal apologies to everyone who tweeted them, but the damage was already done. Even three years later, a simple Google of the brand’s name brings up news stories about the debacle – it was a hard lesson to learn, but they will certainly be doing their homework before jumping on any hashtags in the future.
2. Be sensitive to your surroundings
What seems like a good idea in a creative meeting may rapidly fall apart when put in the real world. The news agenda is constantly changing so be careful that you read the room properly before issuing your advert.
Pepsi fell foul of a poorly thought out advert which showed Kendall Jenner stepping away from a modelling shoot to join a protest, she then passes a police officer a Pepsi and he smiles. The advert was widely criticised as it appeared to trivialise social justice demonstrations taking place in America at the time, suggesting that a fizzy drink could help restore peace between protesters and the authorities.
Unsurprisingly, many took to social media to express their outrage, with prominent figures satirising the video including Bernice King, daughter of civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr who tweeted:
The advert was eventually removed from YouTube and Pepsi was forced to issue a statement saying: “Pepsi was trying to project a global message of unity, peace and understanding. Clearly, we missed the mark, and we apologise. We did not intend to make light of any serious issue.”
3. Make sure your activity is ‘on-brand’
Practical shoe brand Crocs decided to tweet about the sad passing of David Bowie in 2016.
While in itself this isn’t a bad thing, the decision to use a croc with a lightening bulb across it – echoing the lightning bolt painted over the face of Bowie’s alter-ego Ziggy Stardust – caused an immediate reaction on social media.
Although this act didn’t cause an angry backlash like Kendall and Pepsi, it did lead to a lot of people poking fun at the brand, long after the tweet was removed from Crocs’ social channels.
A number of brands paid tribute to Bowie, however their messaging and choice of imagery was more appropriate.
There is nothing intrinsically wrong with a brand sharing memories of a beloved celebrity who has passed away – perhaps the person who controls the Crocs social media account was a big Bowie fan and meant well by the message – but the choice of image suggested that Crocs was trying to capitalise on the popularity of the tag. So even if you’re trying to be respectful, ask yourself, should we be commenting on this? If the answer is yes, make sure you really think about what you’re going to post so you don’t become a laughing stock.
One brand who did manage to walk the line between topical posts and sensitivity is American car manufacturer Chevrolet who put out this tweet following the death of beloved singer Prince.
The reason this post was embraced by social media is because the brand had a genuine link to the singer and is the maker of the ‘little red corvette’, the title of one of Prince’s most well-known songs. The post is also simple, classy and respectful.
If you’re stuck for ideas, don’t worry, that’s our job! We’ve got lots of experience creating award-winning campaigns for clients in various sectors and we’ll make sure your brand reputation keeps growing and everything works smoothly. Take a look at our work for other clients to see what we can do: http://www.acceleris-mc.com/pr-portfolio-case-studies.html
At Acceleris we do a lot of work on issues and reputation management for clients in a variety of sectors and our focus is always on championing your reputation, because ultimately it is the thing which makes or breaks you.