Engage brain before diving in on social media

Several basic bloopers this week emphasized once again that brand marketers must do their due diligence before pressing the button on "smart" social media activations.

Chick-fil-A: Not open on National Chicken Sandwich Day. (Photo credit: Getty Images).
Chick-fil-A: Not open on National Chicken Sandwich Day. (Photo credit: Getty Images).

Sometimes a little common sense goes a long way – and this is especially true on social media.

For example, if you’re a purveyor of chicken sandwiches and you want to make a connection between National Chicken Sandwich Day and your brand, do check first that your stores are actually open on that day.

Chick-fil-A famously doesn’t open on Sundays because of the beliefs of its founders. Its outlet in the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta wasn’t open during this year’s Super Bowl and the company released the following statement explaining why:

"Our founder, Truett Cathy, made the decision to close on Sundays in 1946 when he opened his first restaurant in Hapeville, Georgia. Having worked seven days a week in restaurants open 24 hours, Truett saw the importance of closing on Sundays so that he and his employees could set aside one day to rest and worship if they choose — a practice we uphold today."

Unfortunately, National Chicken Sandwich Day is on a Sunday this year - this Sunday, November 3, in fact - so Chick-fil-A’s email to customers this week exhorting them to lean in to this celebration of all things chicken was somewhat misplaced.

Its competitor Popeyes had a lot of fun with this faux pas on social media and Chick-fil-A had to reach out to its fans via a further email apologizing for promoting the day when its outlets wouldn’t be open.

A little commonsense and due diligence in advance would have gone a long way.

McDonald’s is also in celebratory mode, as it gears up for the 40th anniversary of the Happy Meal. It is reviving classic fan-favorite Happy Meal toys during that period and adding two extra Disney exclusives as party of a Surprise Happy Meal that will mark the occasion. Smart, simple and effective – all playing out on social media.

Less effective was a McDonald’s activation in Portugal to mark Halloween that saw the burger chain use the phrase Sundae Bloody Sundae in a campaign. In retrospect, the marketers behind this regional burger chain activation might reflect that aligning your brand with a phrase most associated with an incident in Northern Ireland in 1972 when British troops shot 14 unarmed civilians dead during a protest march against the internment of suspected members of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) was not too smart.

Social media outrage ensued. McDonald’s apologized and pulled the plug on the campaign.

A little commonsense and due diligence goes a long way.

Another social media operative who didn’t do their due diligence fell foul of anti-influencer ice cream truck owner Joe Nicchi. In July, the owner of Los Angeles-based CVT Soft Serve made headlines for charging influencers double, but one unidentified celebrity’s social media coordinator obviously hadn’t seen the news.

Nicchi shared screenshots of an email exchange on Instagram of the coordinator asking him to "discuss a comp for a social trade" in exchange for providing ice cream at the star’s birthday party. Nicchi sent the hapless exec packing with the following flea in their ear: "We support our family of four children on U.S. currency, not celebrity social media posts."

A little due diligence would have gone a long way.

So how should it be done?

Spice maker and food company McCormick declared today the inaugural National Cinnamon Day. It teamed up with pastry chef Dominque Ansel to create a new dessert devoted to the spice and asked people named Cinnamon to join in the festivities. Smart, simple and effective.

Bud Light created a second activation starring "Always Save the Beer" guy Jeff Adams, after the Washington Nationals won the 2019 World Series on Wednesday. The brand tweeted the video, which shows Nats fan Adams taking a home run ball to the stomach without spilling his two Bud Light drinks, with the caption, "Started a hero, now a champion. Good thing we made another commercial." A separate Bud Light ad starring Adams aired during game 6. 

Smart, simple and effective. As a side note, I guess it wasn’t too surprising to learn that Adams is a PR professional, with a stint at defense contractor Lockheed Martin and specialist vehicle manufacturer AM General on his résumé.

And Coty brand Clairol Professional jumped in on the Purple Shampoo Challenge craze taking over TikTok and leading people to pour purple shampoo onto their heads to change their hair color.

Clairol Professional’s Shimmer Lights is apparently the purple shampoo of choice and the brand leaned into the trend on social media as soon as it became aware of it, with the help of PR firm DeVries Global and social agency Evoke.

Smart, simple and effective.

The lessons from all of this? Social media is a fantastic place to engage consumers and build buzz around your brand. But it can also be laced with poison if you don’t stop for a second before activating to do your due diligence and make sure you’re not missing something obvious that’s going to give the haters something to latch onto and eviscerate your brand.

And if your PR firm isn't already involved in the social media strategy and activation, be sure to loop it in to help facilitate that reality check.

A little commonsense and due diligence goes a long, long way.

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