- BRW Lists
Published 25 February 2013 22:40, Updated 10 April 2013 07:32
The social media outcry over Woolworths’ apparent inclusion of a cinnamon doughnut in its definition of fresh food led to this Ipswich billboard being slated for replacement almost as soon as it was put up. Photo: Tony Corbett via Twitter
It had all the makings of yet another social media disaster but Woolworths turned it around by remembering to listen to customers.
On Monday a post showing a photo of a Woolworths billboard near Ipswich in Queensland went viral on Facebook.
The billboard had the slogan “proudly supplying Ipswich with fresh food for over 43 years” and chose to illustrate it with an picture of a doughnut missing a bite.
Someone posted a photo on Facebook, pointed out that a doughnut wasn’t exactly “fresh food” and suggested it was irresponsible marketing given the high levels of obesity in the town.
At that point things took on a life of their own. The photo was shared and reshared and dozens of posts popped up on Woolworths’ Facebook wall, basically saying the same thing: “Woolworths, what WERE you thinking?”
Images of the Ipswich doughnut billboard were quickly a popular addition to Woolworths’ Facebook page.Photo: Facebook.com
The photo also did the rounds on Twitter.
“Can you tell me when we started growing, breeding or catching doughnuts because I’d really like to see that freak of nature?” said one Facebook commenter.
“Since when has a doughnut been fresh food, SHAME WOOLWORTHS SHAME, take down that billboard,” said another.
Late in the afternoon, Woolworths moved into action. It didn’t delete posts but it looks like it changed its settings so that the home page would display Woolworths’ own posts and you have to click on “recent posts by others” to see them. This seems like a reasonable compromise.
The supermarket also started replying to all posts with the message: “Hi there, just letting you know that we are taking the billboard down today. Our intention was to show one of the products that we bake fresh everyday at our in store bakeries, but we appreciate that the image may have been confusing. We’re proud to be Australia’s fresh food people, offering our customers a wide range of fresh food choices. Thanks for bringing this one to our attention, we really appreciate your feedback.”
The corporate affairs team emailed an almost identical quote to BRW and also confirmed that the doughnut image had not been used anywhere else but Ipswich.
The creative director at advertising and marketing agency Frank Digital, Matt Barbelli, says Woolworths handled the situation well.
“The thing about social media is that you’ve got to use it as a tool, not only [with which] to engage customers and post content but also to listen to what people are saying,” Barbelli says. “Woolworths has apologised and said they would remove the billboard.”
Barbelli says companies that frequently become targets of social media activism should probably ask themselves why. He never recommends deleting user posts, unless they are totally unjustified or offensive.
Sometimes user-led social media commentary can be a chance for a brand to shine but too often companies fail to make the most of opportunities that come their way.
Bubble O’Bill: Barbelli describes how a man created a Facebook page in homage to his favourite childhood treat, the Bubble O’Bill. Streets had not paid to advertise the ice cream for about 20 years, but the page attracted 110,000 Facebook fans. Streets approached the man and paid him to take over the Facebook page and kept him on as a paid consultant.
Oreo: The Super Bowl in the US is one of the biggest advertising events of the year. When the power went out this year, Oreo pulled off a marketing coup by tweeting “Power out? No problem. You can still dunk in the dark.”
Power out? No problem. twitter.com/Oreo/status/29…— Oreo Cookie (@Oreo) February 4, 2013
(Mark Ritson argues that the marketing reach of the Oreo ad has been overstated because very few people actually clicked through, but I disagree. For one thing, it doesn’t require someone to click-through on the link to create brand awareness. For another thing, the ad would have been cheap to make and even cheaper to disseminate so the return on investment was good).
Bodyform: The UK company Bodyform makes sanitary pads. A man left a tongue-in-cheek rant on the Bodyform Facebook page mocking the way advertising tends to glorify the experience of having a period and contrasting that to the behaviour of his girlfriend at that time of the month. Rather than remove the post, ignore it, or post a bland response, Bodyform hired an actress to play the part of the CEO in a hilarious YouTube video responding to the Facebook post.
Burger King: Barbelli says someone took over the Burger King Twitter account and posted that the company had been taken over by McDonald’s. It generated thousands more followers. Burger King took the account offline while they were trying to regain control and once they got it back they just posted that it had been a “busy week” and thanked fans for sticking around. “What a waste of a great opportunity to do something really clever,” Barbelli says. “They should’ve engaged customers more and asked what they thought or got the creative agency involved to do something humorous.”
ANZ: When ANZ came under fire on social media for funding Whitehaven Coal’s Maules Creek mine, the bank basically decided to ignore it. While the issue did die down for ANZ eventually, it was a missed opportunity to get on the front foot on sustainability issues after the high-profile hoax by anti-coal activist Jonathan Moylan.