Georgina Guedes

Pick n Pay’s twitter #fail!

2015-08-14 16:52

Georgina Guedes

So, earlier this week, Celeste Barlow, a mommy blogger (sorry, horrible term), wrote a blog piece that got her a lot of eyeballs (another crap term, sorry). My mom friends republished it – they laughed and commiserated – because it clearly touched a nerve.

The nerve is this: Pick 'n Pay is apparently running a campaign in which, for every R150 you spend, you get a toy called a Stikeez (I don’t know what the singular form is). This means that if you have more than one child, your minimum purchase had better add up to [number of children] x R150.

Barlow has three, so her minimum purchase has to be R450 – and apparently her kids frisk her as she gets in the door.

The blog was funny. It’s nice to read something about parenting that isn’t drowning in saccharin “we are all winners here, we love all the brands” sentiment. She swears. And she signs off by wishing the Pick n Pay marketing team Chlamydia. It’s very merry.

Pick 'n Pay’s response

But here’s the thing. It’s not actually that terrible a blog post from Pick n Pay’s perspective. I didn’t know about the Stikeez campaign, and now I do. And Barlow’s actually saying that not only does she keep shopping there, but she now has to spend more than she otherwise would have. So that’s a good thing for Pick n Pay, right?

Anyway, it wasn’t until later, when Louise Marsland, a media journalist (yes, a journalist who writes about the media), posted that it was the funniest thing that she had read all week, that Pick n Pay’s social media team lost it.

(I am careful to say this was their media team, and not Pick n Pay itself, because it is becoming increasingly apparent that the divide between South African brands and their social media teams is vast and unbridgeable.)

They sent Marsland a tweet saying: “Hi there. Kindly remove your tweet as the content is highly inappropriate.”

What the actual?

Who do they think they are – the apartheid government? Censorship, dictatorship, prudishness and COMPLETELY MISSING THE POINT.

They’ve managed to take an instance of “no publicity is bad publicity” and get the whole of the twitterverse to notice that, “OK, maybe some publicity is bad publicity.” But it’s the kind of bad publicity that the brand is bringing on itself.

Make social media work for you

Do you know what I would have done if I were a brand manager at Pick 'n Pay? I would have sent Celeste Barlow a box of Stikeez with a note saying, “Hi Celeste. Hide these in your cupboard for when your Pick n Pay spend has resulted in a total that’s not divisible by three. And have this voucher on us to even things out a bit.”

I’m pretty sure she would have had something nice to say about it. Or they could have blown their own trumpets and live-tweeted the delivery. Because that’s how social media works – you take the negative stuff and find a way to put a positive spin on it.

You certainly don’t rap the knuckles of the journalists and public that you claim to serve because they said something nasty about your poor brand. And I know they apologised later, on Twitter and the phone, but brands shouldn’t have to be doing this kind of damage control.

So, I guess another social media team is in for a bad weekend, and some quick retraining on Monday. But it would help if this kind of thing was prevented from happening at all by brands taking social media seriously from the outset – carrying out training, setting a tone, helping their staff to deal with crisis management – so that this kind of thing doesn’t have to keep happening.


- Georgina Guedes is a freelance writer. You can follow @georginaguedes on Twitter.

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