In this installment of MarketSmiths’ Badvertising we examine what happens when big corporations fumble at social media. As usual, DO NOT TRY THIS AT HOME!
Molson’s Facebook Fail
Back in 2007, at the dawning of social media, Molson Coors Brewing (the third-largest U.S. brewer behind Anheuser-Busch and Miller) tried to get the party started by creating a Facebook promotion called The Molson Canadian Nation Campus Challenge. They were looking for “The #1 party school in Canada” and encouraged students to upload the most outlandish party photos (presumably of them getting down with a ice cold Molson), and said that the school with the most awesome pics would win a trip for five to spend spring break in Cancun, Mexico. The ad also listed the top 10 Canadian party schools. Seems wholesome enough, what could possibly go wrong?
Oh, everything. Anger and criticism erupted, probably because universities generally don’t like being seen as places “to get your freak on,” and parents were up in arms because they don’t like having photos of their offspring acting drunk and stupid posted on the Internet. Xavier University administrator and dean of students, Joe MacDonald said: “This is not something that is welcome within our campus community.” Molson was accused of obscene behavior and in encouraging underage binge drinking. This last one was, perhaps, unfair as the legal drinking age in Canada is 19 and they were targeting 19-24 year olds—but what Molson failed to take into consideration was that underage freshman and sophomores might participate—which they did. A Molson spokesman said the idea was to promote school spirit, not encourage drinking. Yeah, okay. The campaign was pulled a week early.
All too often, corporations rush into social media like Instagram, Twitter and Facebook without knowing the dynamics, or the full reach of the platforms. Social media is a two-way street, unlike traditional marketing, where interaction is key, and the speed at which that information travels is both a curse and a blessing. While some companies get social media right, like American Airlines, and some get it wrong, like KFC and Kenneth Cole, in order to really harness the massive marketing power that social media has to offer businesses must use the medium to do a lot more than disperse generic information about the company, insert a website URL and ask for some awesome party pics. Get social media right and you’ll have fans who will sing your praises, but get it wrong by trying to be “cool” and, more often than not, it will get you kicked out of the club.
Oh! In case you’re wondering, Memorial University in St. John’s, Newfoundland—with 69 photos uploaded—won the contest, although that had its detractors. A spokeman for Canada’s Western University’s Purple Spur Society, a social club that, among other things, “offers the opportunity to party the Western way,” was ranked eighth—didn’t like the results. “I don’t think the list is accurate,” said Richard Cuttler, president of the Purple Spur Society. When asked why the Purple Spur avoided being more active in promoting Western’s partying on the Internet, Cuttler explained that “corporate sponsorship” was an issue.
Party on, Rich.