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Dabitch wrote an article the other day called Red Lobster fails when joining #formation hype on twitter - they should have stayed mum.
When Red Lobster decided the best day to respond in kind to Beyoncé was the day before the Super Bowl when every last living soul was on Twitter. It did not go well. According to Dabitch:
Red Lobster was encouraged to "fire ur agency. Then fire everyone who hired them", told "y'all need consultants" and generally mocked. Community Managers like April Davis concluded "that response was lame" when Red Lobster tried to save the situation with another tweet "You try to bake Cheddar Bay Biscuits and tweet at the same time! #harderthanitlooks #Formation". Red Lobster was told "just stop. You tried" and "another trash tweet. Why are you still employed?" among the many "just don't" gif's thrown their way. Someone in the thread concluded "you need a new young media consultant,"but I'm not so sure that's the solution.
That last bit is definitely not the solution as no doubt the post would have only included a gif or some reference stolen from Reddit, and yes that is a problem. You know why? People who eat at Red Lobster aren't scrolling through Reddit and won't get or care about some inane insider reference, that is nothing more than advertising navel gazing. But let's unpack Dabitch's article quote here a bit more, first noting that, angry Beyhive mob and piggy backers aside, Red Lobster had more hearts and shares than like, ever, with its admittedly ridiculous post. Keep that in mind.
1. This is Red Lobster we are talking about.
Seriously. Think about it. Is Red Lobster hip? Should Red Lobster know the ins and outs of pop culture? More importantly, do they need to know the ins and outs of pop culture? Do they really need to hire some millennial for just that right moment on the off chance they ever get mentioned again? No. Why not? Because Red Lobster knew enough to capitalize on earned media, and puntastic dumbness or not, it got your attention and you responded. They won. You lost. So all the articles about what Red Lobster should have done are meaningless.
2. But what about those people responding?
What about them? April Davis, New York City-based community manager responded with "That Tweet was Lame." Okay. But she's a community manager, i.e. she works in social media. King Ben Solomon, the one who wrote "fire ur agency, then fire everyone who hired them," is a director and producer, also based in New York City. I mention these two because they appear in almost every article about how negatively people responded to red Lobster. (Also please reread what I wrote and tell me the world isn't ending.)
I've lived and worked in New York City. I believe there are two Red Lobsters in Manhattan and one of them is in Times Square, i.e. where-the-tourists go. Could it possibly be that New York City social media managers and those who work in production aren't the target market? I bring this up because there are other people out there in the heartland who, probably don't spend time on Twitter but heard about this in the news. And while they may have groaned or rolled their eyes a bit, they didn't bring out the snarky torches and pitchforks, calling for the head of someone or other because again, Red Lobster threw a Hail Mary pass and hit the jackpot in terms of reach, which last time I checked is the whole point of social media. You can parse it all day long about being "liked," or whatever, but that is a joke. Publicity is publicity. And as far as bad publicity goes? More on that in a second...
But the whole point of good social media is to respond to pop culture.
You mean like respond to Beyoncé when she name checks you and your sales spike 33% as a result? Yeah, Red Lobster did that. Was it elegant, or amazing? Not at all. Did it get a response? Yes it did. When was the last time you responded to Red Lobster about anything? Never?
3. No seriously. By social media standards, Red Lobster did really well.
The brand was mentioned 42,000 times in its first hour. The first time that ever happened. I haven't checked all of the people who responded negatively to the post but I am willing to few of any of the responders have any kind of reach like that. More than that, we are still talking about it. And not only that, Red Lobster is reporting that because of Beyoncé, they had a 33% increase in sales, so they were smart enough to attempt, however amateurishly, to capitalize on all that earned media. You guys do know the whole point of advertising, regardless of media, is to help sell stuff, right?
4. But what about all those people hatin' on it?
In addition to the aforementioned people who work in social media and production, someone from New York Times cooking also got in on the action "If you're not getting taken to Red Lobster this week, maybe try a few of these recipes?" Because it's always hilarious and not desperate coattail riding when brand capitalizes on another brands moment in the sun. Note how few the hearts and retweets are on it:
— Sam Sifton (@SamSifton) February 7, 2016
So yes, countless articles have been written showing denouncing Red Lobster for even trying, more or less using the exact same Tweets as well which is an example of just how lazy journalism has become today.
5. It's journalism, specifically advertising journalism, that needs to be taken out back and shot.
Forgotten among all the gleeful schadenfreude articles was one very important fact. Stupid puntastic tweet or not, Red Lobster needed this. Why? Because, if any journalist had bothered to do any research, they would have known that Red Lobster is in decline and its sales are down. Like, so bad that they sold off the chain to an investment firm, two years ago. Pretty much every Red Lobster article in 2014, a little over a year ago, was bleak. And now, sales are up thanks to Beyoncé. If my company had some craptastic years and someone gifted me this way I would have capitalized on it, too and I would have been just as grateful as Red Lobster was. That's the irony. In admittedly silly and awkward fashion, Red Lobster was thanking Beyoncé with that tweet. I realize The Beyhive will attempt to destroy anything that isn't appropriately regal, but give me a break.
6. Red Lobster's PR nightmare is actually a storm in a teacup.
Despite the apocalyptic nature of articles and tweets, this isn't like when Gilbert Gottfried, as the AFLAC duck, made a tweet about the Japan tsunami and was fired. This isn't as bad as when The person in charge of Red Cross social mixed up their personal account and tweeted about beer, although the Red Cross had a great follow up and laughed it off. It's not as bad as when US Airways tweeted a pornographic image by accident. This also doesn't come anywhere near the time SpaghettiO's wanted us to celebrate Pearl Harbor.
I mention just a few, but there are tons more. And more importantly, I'm willing to bet you remember them dimly if at all. This is of course because of microwave mentality. Unless you really pay attention you don't know what happened three months ago let alone three years ago. A lot of the blame can be laid at the altar of social media. Because social media's very nature is meant for quick spikes and even quicker fades. To people who really believe that idea that somehow the damage to Red Lobster's brand is irrefutable, all I can say is, wait a couple of days. In fact, the chances of Red Lobster having to shutter its doors is zilch.
The Beyhive will find other brands and people to hate. In the meantime Red Lobster can celebrate and thank its lucky stars its not Chipotle. Because that's a real PR nightmare.