Posted February 8, 2011 8:57 am by with 10 comments

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I’m going to keep this post simple.

We are looking at the whole Groupon / Tibet / Insensitivity / Non-Apology / You Just Don’t Get Us, back and forth that is taking up some online space after their Super Bowl ads from Sunday’s big game.

From a pure reputation management perspective chime in with a comment whether you think the whole Groupon ‘thing’ is

1. Harmful to Groupon’s reputation
2. A reputation ‘non-issue’
3. Much ado about nothing
4. One for the advertising and reputation Hall of Fame of Blunders
5. Something else not mentioned

Use our space to voice your opinion because there are many of them and they have been all over the map. My take is that while I was offended by the Tibet ad (and honestly it takes a bit of doing to offend me) I don’t know if this will ultimately hurt Groupon because people have short memories and they want to get deals. Couple that with the fact that it’s mostly the marketing industry that is in a tizzy about this (which, granted, is full of influencers) and this will blow over and just be a minor case study on how to handle (or not handle) these things.

If you are interested Groupon CEO, Andrew Mason has posted a response on the Groupon blog. Notice I didn’t say apology. Let’s just call it a re-positioning of sorts.

Thanks for helping us put this to rest for the rest of the world so we can all move on.

  • My vote is for ‘4. One for the advertising and reputation Hall of Fame of Blunders’

    Whatever Groupon’s “noble” intentions were, the Tibet ad, in particular, came across in very poor taste.

  • Poe

    The Tibet ad was just shy of brilliant advertising, for two reasons. One, it got people talking about Groupon and two it got people talking about Tibet, which is no longer in the news due to Afgans and terrorists. While it may have offended, it crawled in your brain and has setup shop. You not only remember it but you remember what company the ad was for. And that is what made it a brilliant ad. Sure everyone remembers the Herding Carts commercial from a few years back, but no one remembers who the commercial was for. What company was that ad for?

    The ad has people blogging and talking about Groupon and Tibet. That was the purpose of the ad. Even if it maybe negative in nature, the wave of energy is there and people who are on the fringe or not sure what to think will go to, check out its services and become a customer. Maybe even donate to the Tibet fund. Which is exactly what Groupon wanted all along.

    Advertising is not good taste, its emotional. It’s about getting the product into the peoples minds and hearts. Most commercials use one of the three to sell: boobs, babies or puppies. All three were well represented amongst the super bowl ads. And Groupon nailed it with the final trick, controversy.

  • This mis-step is certainly going to hurt their image with some people, & ultimately is a Hall of Fame Blunder. However, people do have short memories, & are much more concerned with themselves than others. So as soon as there’s a hot deal on Groupon, they’ll resubscribe.

    If we really look at the ads though, you see that they simply are not well done. They never mentioned their meager charitable contributions (meager, considering they spent well over $3 million for each spot, & are only offering $100,000 match), and didn’t spend the time to adequately educate the consumer about the product. The ads weren’t even funny.
    Anyways, my take is here:

  • Phil Segal

    “Any publicity is good publicity.”

    • @Phil – Do you really believe that?

      • Poe

        I do. Rarely do people make the news for good behavior. It is the negative elements that make the news and blogs ie. this posting. We’re not talking earth shattering publicity like BP or Enron here, but yes any publicity is good. and like Nick mentioned earlier, memories are short.

  • Fair enough.

  • Cynthia

    My biggest fear is that one day I’ll come in here to post a comment and the spam protection will say:

    2x-(2n+1) + 1/16 (3x+4) = ?

    Groupon. Here’s how it went for me. Oh voice, of Tim Hutton. Leverage! I love him. Hmm. . . very serious commercial, must be a joke in here somewhere. . . hmm. . still serious, what is this? Save the Children during the Super Bowl. . odd and then oh, there’s the joke – wow, not funny and . . . kinda poor taste.

    Does it make me want to boycott Groupon? No. Blunder on their part but it won’t hurt them in the long run. Tim Hutton may never hear the end of it though. I guarantee some reporter will bring it up on the next Leverage conference call.

    Personally, I was more offended by the long line of commercials that ended with someone getting smacked with something. Vaudeville is not dead.

  • I completely disagree with Poe and Phil, with all due respect. Yes, people have short attention spans, and given the fact that Groupon has been a company that has demonstrated philanthropic efforts in the past…it may be forgiven. However, if you look at some of the vicious and hateful comments that the ad generated on Groupon’s blog (, people did not appreciate their attempt at humor, nor do they care about what Groupon is currently doing to help out the charities. Nick, good point with the dollars matched compared to the cost of the spots

    I think what is really overlooked is the fact that Andrew Mason made an apology video for a deal gone wrong in China ( yet he did not officially apologize for a commercial that offended thousands, if not hundreds of thousands.

    The correct move is to apologize for it and not defend your reasoning for the commercial.

    On a side note, this commercial was aimed at people not familiar with Groupon. What type of image does the commercial project? Certainly, not one of a business that I want to interact with. On the other hand (and while people have their negative opinions about this one too), I thought Living Social did an amazing job of injecting humor into their spot ( The most interesting part that I saw was that Living Social communicated how easy it was to get deals delivered to your inbox while Groupon made it seem like 100 or 200 of you had to buy in order to get the deal, which, for someone unfamiliar with how the sites work…may have confused.

    Lastly, and sorry this is so long, I wanted to show you guys another very early Groupon commercial that demonstrates to me that Andrew’s sense of humor is very, very unique. I disagreed with the Tibet commercial, but I have forgiven and moved on. I’ll still use Groupon as well as Living Social. Here’s the early Groupon spot that never officially aired on television:

  • Sally

    WOWWW!The commercial was amazing and so is groupon. I have just now checked and have anyone tried froupon deals they really rock may they really save a lot of money! 🙂