Tuesday, October 30, 2012

A very own Twitter disaster

There's been yet another Twitter controversy.

While people in the Northeastern United States bravely battle Hurricane Sandy, American Apparel seemed to think it was a good idea to use the disaster for a marketing strategy. The retailer sent out an email blast Monday night, offering 20% off to customers for the next 36 hours.

The reason for the sale? "In case you're bored during the storm in the next 36 hours". The email said to enter "SANDYSALE" at the checkout, which apparently targets online shoppers who are staying indoors to seek refuge from the storm.

I haven't found a statement released by American Apparel yet. And who knows if they will. As for now, here is some backlash the eblast received over Twitter:

You might think this would only be one retailer's mistake. However, while writing this post, I quickly checked my Twitter feed and discovered yet another retailer's tasteless comment regarding the storm.

Superstore's brand, President's Choice, tweeted a picture of a Marshmallow Bloodshot Eyeball recipe in spirit of Halloween. With the picture, they tweeted "What's scarier? Hurricane #Sandy or a beverage with marshmallow eyeballs? #recipe #Halloween".

I had to shake my head when I saw this. American Apparel is known to be racy and quite frankly a little ignorant. But did value-based brands like President's Choice learn nothing about social media management after the KitchenAid/Obama tweeting disaster? President's Choice tweeted an apology within an hour of the ignorant post:

President's Choice is a family-friendly brand that communicates it's strong household values through it's branding. Both business' tweets were tasteless and tactless.

I'm curious to see how these issues unfold, if additional statements will be released, and how the backlash affects both brands. Let these two PR disasters be yet another lesson to social media managers.

Maxipad combats Facebook rant with blood

Absolutely hilarious. There is no other way to describe the Maxipad brand's reply to a Facebook rant.

Maxipad ads and commercials have always depicted a "happy period experience". In Maxipad commercials, women on their periods dance around, wear white dresses without care, and play sports with ease. Having a period is depicted as non-disruptive to a woman's lifestyle.

Deep down, women all know the truth that periods aren't fun. And we don't for a second believe Maxipads can solve our problems at a certain "time of the month". We understand these are commercials, and just another advertising strategy. So there's no issues...right?

Not exactly. A man named Richard decided to write on Bodyform's (a feminine product manufacturing company) Facebook page. In Richard's rant, he said his girlfriend doesn't have happy periods like those depicted in the ads, but instead she becomes "the little girl from the exorcist with added venom and an extra 360 degree head spin".

Oh, Richard.

The post received more than 84,000 Facebook "likes". Rather than just ignore it, Bodyform responded to Richard with a video.

In the video, Bodyform sarcastically apologies for it's lying in depicting periods as a happy time. The video shows Bodyform CEO Caroline Williams (played by an actress) pour herself a glass of the blue water often shown spilling over pads in commercials (perhaps a little gross, but actually funny).

She says "I think it's time we came clean. We lied to you, Richard. And I want to say sorry". She goes on to explain why the period commercials are depicted as happy, saying metaphorical imagery in the ads is better than focusing on "the blood coursing from our uteri like a crimson landslide".

Perhaps my favorite part in the whole video is when Williams says "But you, Richard, have torn down that veil and exposed the myth, thereby exposing every man to a reality we hoped they'd never have to face. You did that, Richard. You. Well done" and caps it off with a smile and swig of the blue liquid.

Yulia Kretova, brand controller for Bodyform, said in a statement:
"We found Richard's post very amusing and wanted to continue the positive dialogue around periods that this generated. Working with the brand for five years, breaking down the taboo around Bodyform and periods has always been a challenge, and I hope that we have started to address this. Carat has created an original and uniquely personalized response, brilliantly PR-ed by Myriad, allowing Bodyform to quickly engage in consumer conversations in a meaningful way."

Richard, and men by extension, are not Bodyform or Maxipad's key publics. Because of this, you may assume that Bodyform should just ignore Richard's post and focus on their female target audience. However, Richard's post received over 84,000 Facebook "likes". 84,000 likes is a large enough number that likely requires a response.

The video has potential to make their female target audience laugh. Any brand takes a risk in responding to comments against their brand, and I think it's tricky to do it well. However, I think this video response was brilliant and Bodyform did a nice job. You did that, Bodyform. You. Well done.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Lance Armstrong - dumped by Nike

What you've always thought about Lance Armstrong: World cyclist racing champion, seven-time Tour De France winner, multiple cancer survivor, and founder of Lance Armstrong Livestrong cancer charity.

Here's what's happened in the last while:

June, 2012: U.S. anti-doping agency charges Lance Armstrong with having used illegal performance-enhancing drugs.

August, 2012: Armstrong receives a lifetime ban from professional cycling competitions, and is stripped of his seven Tour De France titles.

October, 2012: Armstrong steps down as chairman of the Lance Armstrong Livestrong Foundation.

A week after the U.S. anti-doping agency released evidence of drug use by Armstrong, Armstrong decided to step down as chairman of the Livestrong Foundation. Armstrong said the following in his statement:

"This organization, its mission and its supporters are incredibly dear to my heart. Today therefore, to spare the foundation any negative effects as a result of controversy surrounding my cycling career, I will conclude my chairmanship."

Armstrong will remain on the board of the foundation. Soon after Armstrong released his statement, Nike announced they would be ending its sponsorship relationship with Armstrong. Pretty big move considering Nike stood by Tiger Woods in his infidelity scandal and convicted dog-fighter Michael Vick. Nike released the following statement regarding its dropping of Armstrong:

"Due to the seemingly insurmountable evidence that Lance Armstrong participated in doping and misled Nike for more than a decade, it is with great sadness that we have terminated our contract with him."

Soon after, other sponsors cut their ties with Armstrong.

Armstrong has not admitted to doping or using performance-enhancing drugs. He's portrayed the whole scandal as a nightmare, which casts him in the light as being a victim. Although stripped of his championship titles, he refuses to change his message that he won his races clean.

I'm not sure if he's made a smart or poor PR move in his responses to the scandal. I think at this point, even if he did admit to doping, it would be a bad move. His key messages, and the messages of the foundation, have been the same through this whole scandal. Even if Armstrong did want to come clean about doping now, it would likely just damage his image more at this point.

If I were his PR practitioner, I would be worried about my reputation from this point on in my career. If Armstrong is indeed lying and did use drugs, and his PR is aware of this, that PR will have a difficult time re-building their reputation in the industry. Let this be a rule to all PRs: don't lie, don't make statements that lie, and don't be associated with liars. It could damage your career.

Armstrong's response to using drugs in 2001: "What am I on? I'm on my bike, busting my ass six hours a day."

Thursday, October 11, 2012

KitchenAid...somebody's getting fired.

During this year's presidential debate, an offensive tweet poked fun at Obama's late grandmother under KitchenAid's official Twitter account. The tweet read:

“@KitchenAidUSA: Obamas gma even knew it was going 2 b bad! She died 3 days b4 he became president. #nbcpolitics”

@KitchenAidUSA posted this tweet to the potential eyes of 24,000 followers before it was quickly deleted.

I didn't watch the presidential debate, but apparently Obama mentioned his grandmother, Madelyn Lee Payne Dunham, during it. Obama's grandmother past away Nov. 2, 2008, just before he was elected president.

@KitchenAid apologized quickly in a tweet for the offensive comment:
 "Deepest apologies for an irresponsible tweet that is in no way a representation of the brand's opinion #nbcpolitics"

KitchenAid's Cynthia Soledad released a statement quickly after:

“During the debate tonight, a member of our Twitter team mistakenly posted an offensive tweet from the KitchenAid handle instead of a personal handle. The tasteless joke in no way represents our values at KitchenAid, and that person won’t be tweeting for us anymore. That said, I lead the KitchenAid brand, and I take responsibility for the whole team. I am deeply sorry to President Obama, his family, and the Twitter community for this careless error. Thanks for hearing me out.”

Here is a list of tweets @KitchenAidUSA sent out to apologize for the incident:

I think it was good tactic to apologize over the same medium as the one that caused the uproar. I also think it was good for Soledad to address the mistake and take full responsibility even though it wasn't her who tweeted it.

My immediate thought when I heard about the tweet was, "somebody's getting fired". Companies have to be so careful who they put in control over their Twitter accounts. Let this be a lesson to all social media managers.

A company should never mix personal opinions with a brand, ever. 24,000 followers may have seen the offensive tweet, but 24,000 followers may not have seen the apology tweet, or cared to notice. This put KitchenAid's brand in jeopardy, and I'm curious to see how KitchenAid's sales have changed since the incident.

What are your thoughts on how this PR issue was handled?

Thursday, October 04, 2012

a tainted badass

Celebrity PR issues. Not exactly hard to come by. I understand that celebrities are people too, but I think celebrities should carefully contemplate the decisions they make when they're role models for a large audience.

Rihanna, arguably one of the biggest female R&B singers of today, is rumoured to be back together with her former abuser, Chris Brown. And the rumours are looking true.

According to reports from 2009, Rihanna and Chris Brown left a pre-Grammy party and began fighting in their vehicle. The fight turned violent and left Rihanna bloody and bruised.

Rihanna was seen as "doing the right thing" when she ended her relationship with Brown immediately after. It's been about three years since the abusive incident, and Rihanna is rumoured to be dating Brown again.

I remember this incident happening as I watched Entertainment Tonight at home. And I remember how impressed I was with Rihanna when I found out she left him.  She set a great example for abused women.

A public of Rihanna's is young girls. Impressionable girls who escape reality envisioning themselves as famous and powerful as Rihanna. It's obvious Rihanna is not setting a good example for these girls. I understand she's a person who should be able to make her own decisions, but rekindling with Brown is sending out a wrong message to this public.

Abuse is wrong, and should never be accepted. This is what we, females AND males are taught.

I've always been a fan of Rihanna's music. But I've lost respect for her as a person now. Every time I hear her music come on the radio, her badass brand is tainted by her choice to date Brown.

So, from a PR perspective, Rihanna's choice to date Brown again is a bad move. It taints her image, her brand and the way her young girl fans perceive her. Yes, she'll still make millions based on her musical abilities, but her personal choices will perhaps not be taken as seriously by some of her publics. Not by me, anyway.

 You can read a recent story about this here.