I’m not advocating for consumer-facing brands on Twitter to go rogue or anything, but what if they did, and it eventually paid off?
A day doesn’t pass when some tasteless new Twitter-fueled gaffe emerges onto the media’s radar and is quickly added to the annals of bad PR practices. This of course follows a viral and vengeful vendetta via the very medium in which the gaffe first appeared. The culprit invariably expresses contrition, and often is canned by the company holding the Twitterstrings.
The latest iteration of this scenario involves the now-departed Amy Winehouse. No, I’m not alluding to the questionable post by one PR person speaking his mind, but rather the so-called shameless promotional tweet by the UK-based rep for Microsoft’s Zune who exhorts his followers to:
“Tweetbox360 Remember Amy Winehouse by downloading the ground-breaking ‘Back to Black’ over at Zune:social.zune.net/album/Amy-Wine…”
I suspect that this was simply a case of poor judgment by the junior (agency?) person in whose hands the company’s Twitter account was entrusted. Still, I’d be curious to know whether the incendiary tweet, apart from generating notoriety (i.e., awareness), produced a spike in downloads of Ms. Winehouse’s “Back to Black” album (on Zune no less).
In April, I wrote about bad public behavior and asked the question:
“What level of edginess or outrageousness is required to break through today’s media clutter?”
Are some of these tasteless tweets consciously conceived to create controversy? After the initial pain produced by an outraged public, can they ultimately accrue positively to (languishing) brands? Does the ephemeral nature of Twitter, and the media in general, eventually eradicate the offending remark from the public’s short-term memory banks?
Following that famous Kenneth Cole tweet in which he, or whomever tweeted on his behalf, exploited the bloody protests in Egypt to promote a shoe sale, a blogger for the Seattle PI postulated that this was actually a calculated gambit:
“In other words a marketer will take an action thatâ€™s less than kosher to get attention, which satisfies the first level of reach, then apologize for that action, which draws more attention, and then ride off the talk thatâ€™s generated from the entire episode. Thatâ€™s what Kenneth Coleâ€™s going through. Overall, heâ€™s still got a good name and the Internet flamers who jump on him will, in some cases, make themselves look so bad it actually helps Cole.”
In an age when the public has a greater tolerance than ever for truly tasteless tweeting, I gotta think that marketers everywhere are scheming for new ways to lower the bar to break through the clutter. Am I an advocate for such (mis)behavior? Let’s just say: proceed at your own PR-ilous risk.