Last week, Heck promoted a photocall with the Tory leadership frontrunner holding aloft some ‘Boris Banger’ themed sausages.
PR pros labelled the stunt and Heck’s belated explanation as ‘offal PR’ and in poor taste as Twitter went into a feeding frenzy, with consumers asking the brand 'what the Heck it was thinking' and many threatening to boycott.
Analysis by PR agency Smoking Gun found #BoycottHeck was posted just over 6,000 times, but of these posts only 1,200 were original postings, meaning that more than two thirds of the social ‘backlash’ was generated by retweets.
Of this reposting activity, 1,200 included an additional comment, while the majority shared the original post with no additional input.
The online backlash period was also largely contained to 8 and 9 July, with 7,940 tweets over these two days, whereas 538 tweets were posted on the days following (10 and 11 July).
Further data showed that online sentiment over this period jumped from largely ‘trust’ and ‘joy’ in June (pre-Boris) to ‘mistrust’ and ‘anger’ in July (post-Boris). Mistrust made up nearly half (43 per cent) of the social conversation surrounding Heck during this period.
Brand fan loyalty
Smoking Gun managing director Rick Guttridge explained: "In the month of June, there were just 341 posts related to the brand, whereas the first 10 days in July saw 9,442 posts, demonstrating that the Boris backlash was generating conversation, rather than necessarily changing the tone of the existing social interactions.
"The backlash may have caused the brand to see a shift from largely positive to an overall more negative social sentiment, but the increase in positive tweets over this period also cannot be ignored."
The number of tweets showing 'trust' towards the brand jumped from 18 to 759 over this 'crisis' period, and 'joy' from 17 to 344.
So although there was a larger sentiment of 'mistrust', many Heck fans remained loyal and took to social media to show their support.
"Social media can have the power to fuel a situation, but on this occasion we saw it lose momentum as quickly as it gained it," Guttridge added.
"Heck needs to work on its press statements, as its public utterance on the matter came across as unconvincing and untrue. However, thanks to positive brand foundations, this situation seems to be a Boris backlash in a tea cup, rather than a crisis that’ll hit the bottom line in the long term.
"An influx of negative posting should cause any brand to react with a crisis management strategy, but a legacy of positive reputation and customer goodwill built up over the years helped to save Heck from further backlash."