Monday Morning Brand Quarterbacking / by Chel Wolverton

In the rapid fire internet time, brands can't afford to have a divided message when social sharing.  I can understand why companies think it's risky to interact online with consumers after watching the Kenneth Cole debatcle unfold on Thursday followed by the Super Bowl ad gaff by Groupon on Sunday. The tweet by Kenneth Cole was in short, distasteful.  The internets were fired up and pointing the blowtorch at Kenneth Cole. Someone deleted the tweet from his stream, followed up with a tweet pointing folks to an apology on Facebook.  As a side note, they can't seem to get their stories straight.  It wasn't a joke, it was a joke, it was a prank.....seems to make the apology ring hallow.  This beauty seems to signal they knew exactly what they were doing:

Kenneth Cole

You'd think that brands would be treading lightly following that, but Groupon was in a tight spot.  Reportedly paying $3M for ad spots during the Super Bowl, they were to be tongue in cheek "parody of a celebrity-narrated, PSA-style commercial that you think is about some noble cause (such as “Save the Whales”), but then it’s revealed to actually be a passionate call to action to help yourself (as in “Save the Money”)?" (quote taken from Groupon's blog post regarding their ads).

It makes one wonder if the marketing department at Groupon didn't consider that their message would be taken similarly. Seriously, guys?

Still, it does seem like their hands were tied.  The money was spent and pulling the ads would cost revenue. They were being aired to potential subscribers Groupon.  Their blog post seems to point at their decision making process on the ads.

I find I'm fascinated with the question on the pros and cons of pulling the ads.  Should they have?  What did they have to lose and gain by airing or not airing?  Was the results worth the risk?  Did the marketing folks at Groupon even consider it a risk?  Did they lose subscribers as a result?  Will that hurt them or will the influx of subscribers as a result of the ad offset that?

What would I have done?  I would have called the ad company in question and requested that be added to the last screen of the commercial making it clear that they were trying to do some social good.  Would that cost a chunk of change?  Probably.  Right thing to do though?  I think so.

When expressing an off the wall sense of humor to the world who may not follow, it's always best to err on the side of caution lest you rile the masses.  I find it hard to believe that no one called into question that perhaps some people wouldn't take it well.  (In the case of KC, well, how many of us run our tweets by others before we send?)

So what do you do as consumers if you were offended?  Well I follow what my friend, Christopher Penn asked over on his blog following KC's tweet on Thursday: Do you take action that matters, that has an impact on the brands in question?

It all really comes down to having some amount of common sense which multi-million dollar companies can afford to do with focus groups and gut checks.  Those two things would have likely prevented either situation from occurring.  Just because we live in a super speedy world doesn't mean we need to leave behind the basics to keep up.