Tweets can be deleted, but when a food brand faces a moment of reckoning on social media, there's no way to erase the outcome.
It's only February, but in 2013 at least five well-recognized brands in the food and beverage industry have already learned the hard way how unforgiving tweeters can be. Facebook and Twitter can help to build brand awareness, keep consumers engaged and drives sales, but they can also force brands to humble themselves. From ill-timed tweets to too many to none at all, it's easy for brands to screw it all up. As the top five food brands' social media disasters of 2013 reveal, social media is a fickle mistress:
(Editor's note: Also, be sure to check out our list of food brands that have seen the most social media success this year.)
5. TESCO TWEETS HORSE FIASCO FAUX PAS
When the horse meat scandal first broke, just as their bargain-price burgers were found to contain, yes, horse meat, Tesco, the biggest supermarket chain in the UK, tweeted out from their official account:
It's sleepy time so we're off to hit the hay! See you at 8am for more #TescoTweets— Tesco Customer Care (@UKTesco) January 17, 2013
In the wake of the quick-fire Twitter-enabled publicity debacle that followed, Tesco claimed the tweet was an accident of auto-scheduling. None of that really mattered, though, as the comparatively minimal damage from the tweet was quickly eclipsed by the ballooning horse meat controversy, which is perhaps the only reason it isn't any higher on this list.
4. COCA-COLA GOES OH-SO-SILENTLY INTO THAT GOOD NIGHT
While many brands successfully used social media to their advantage during the Super Bowl, Coca-Cola failed miserably. In an odd twist in the noisy, all-too-scrutinized world of social media, Coca-Cola did not tweet, not even just once, during a crucial second half stretch of Super Bowl XLVII. What was going on? A little-known Twitter rule prevents accounts from tweeting out more than 1,000 times in one day, an effort to impede spamming. But apparently Coca-Cola already knew about that. The company had filed paperwork with Twitter to temporarily raise the ceiling past 1,000.
Coca-Cola planned to urge viewers to vote on CokeChase.com in the brand's first quarter spot, "Mirage"(see below). After the commercial, however, the website started to crash, causing a scramble from the Coca-Cola social media team to enact Plan B, which was to urge viewers to vote on Twitter. As Coca-Cola individually thanked those who voted, the plan backfired and Coca-Cola exceeded even the new, revised tweet limit. From 8:22 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. on Super Bowl Sunday, for nearly two pivotal hours of primetime TV, Coca-Cola's Twitter account went silent.
3. MAKER'S MARK LOSES TO THE INTERNET (TWICE)
Due, supposedly, to high demand for Maker's Mark bourbon, its makers decided to lower its alcohol content by 3%, from 45% alcohol by volume to 42%, in order to supply its growing consumer-base with more bourbon. Unfortunately for Maker's Mark, consumers almost immediately realized they were being sold watered-down bourbon, which led to a bit of Twitter-enabled brouhaha. On Tuesday, Feb. 12, Maker's Mark received nearly 6,000 tweets devoted to lambasting the bourbon-maker's decision. That number quickly dropped, but the damage was done. Maker's Mark feared lasting damage to the brand's reputation and reversed course:
You spoke. We listened. ow.ly/hN3kC— Maker's Mark (@MakersMark) February 17, 2013
This change led analysts to suggest Maker's Mark actually lost twice — first, for underestimating the power of social media and, second, for overestimating the long-term effect on consumers' short-lived attention spans.
2. MCDONALD'S BUYS BURGER KING
"We just got sold to McDonalds! Look for McDonalds in a hood near you," Burger King's official Twitter account read. This was the first in a series of alternately cringe-inducing and hilarious tweets sent out on Feb. 18 from Burger King's account. The hack lasted just over an hour but its repercussions were felt throughout the Twitter-sphere as Burger King temporarily lost all of its followers, McDonald's denied any wrongdoing and Wendy's had "an alibi." The day after, Jeep's official Twitter account was hacked, reportedly by the same person, while MTV and BET spoofed the entire fiasco by fake hacking each other's accounts in what, ultimately, was just a publicity stunt. Safe to say, nobody won.
1. POLAND SPRING BUNGLES SENATOR'S #WATERGATE MOMENT
Marco Rubio, Republican Senator from Florida and Presidential hopeful in 2016, caused an internet sensation when, during his response to President Obama's State of the Union address, he started to trail off, thirstily reached for a Poland Spring bottle and awkwardly guzzled down water on live TV. As the Twittersphere blew up over so-called #watergate, Poland Spring stayed amazingly silent — it was discovered shortly thereafter that Poland Spring's account had not tweeted since 2010.
John Bonini, a content marketing manager at Impact Branding & Design, estimated Poland Spring could have seen a $3 million boost in sales. Poland Spring did eventually reply with this but, after CNN prematurely asked whether #watergate would sink his political career, Rubio showed Poland Spring how to properly leverage the moment — Rubio's PAC, Reclaim America, launched "Rubio" water bottles under the tagline: "Send the liberal detractors a message that not only does Marco Rubio inspire you… he hydrates you too." Reclaim America has reportedly sold over 4,200 bottles, bringing in over $125,000.
Be sure to also check out Food Dive's list of five food brands that got it right on social media this year!
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