Coca-Cola may be a business giant, but this Goliath is no match for a mom and her mouse! It all began innocently enough with a clever social media marketing plan to promote Dr. Pepper on Facebook. The program was designed to override the Facebook status box of an opted in user with fun but embarrassing quotes chosen at random.
“What’s wrong with peeing in the shower?” probably cracked up the football buddies when they saw it on Frankie’s Facebook page, but the mom of a 14-year-old girl wasn’t at all amused with what she found on her daughter’s account. The reference that started the ruckus was an homage to a particularly disgusting porno movie. A reference that has no business being tied to Facebook or Dr. Pepper, let alone the account of a child.
MrsRickman (the woman’s online user name) complained to Coca Cola and was offered theater tickets and a hotel stay as an apology. The woman was offended by the offer and took her complaint to a UK mom’s website. 1300 replies later and a wave of discussion in the media and now it looks like the marketing agency is going to take the fall. But who is really to blame?
“We were unaware of the meaning of this line when the promotion was approved and have launched an investigation into why it was included. We take full responsibility and will be reviewing our promotional procedures.”
Full responsibility, meaning . . .
“We have stopped all our ongoing work with Lean Mean Fighting Machine and are reviewing our relationship with the agency. We will take all steps necessary to ensure this does not happen again.”
Coca-Cola’s claim that they didn’t know the remark was pornographic simply doesn’t hold up. Even if the person who reviewed the promotion wasn’t familiar with the exact reference, the line was clearly dirty and they should have asked for clarification. But even looking beyond that particular reference, who thought it was a good idea to subject Facebook users of any age to random vulgarity? Is this really how they want to define the brand? Peeing in the shower, porn and Dr. Pepper? I’m sure they thought it was funny and hip when it was first conceived and even a little controversial and dangerous but this isn’t beer, we’re talking about, it’s a soda from a company whose slogan used to be “Sign of Good Taste.”
The lesson here is that companies need to be actively involved in protecting their reputation and their brand. This applies to the corporate giants and the small company just starting out. When it comes to social media marketing, remember that “sharing” is what it’s all about which means that the R-rated photo you offer to an adult on Twitter could end up on the Facebook of a minor with just a few clicks.
Now, I’ll leave you with a quote from the terms of service on the Dr. Pepper Facebook Fan Page:
“We encourage you to post comments, photos, videos, and links here. But please behave. We may monitor and remove inappropriate, offensive or any other postings.”
Unless, of course, they post the offensive material themselves.
What do you think? Did the mother in question make too much out of an innocent ad campaign? Or is Coca-Cola out of line?