From a Public Relations perspective the ages old saying “any publicity is good publicity” is ever present. It also seemed to be driving force of Oprah Winfrey’s latest stunt on Twitter and beyond, the free KFC coupons giveaway. What happened?
Oprah, the probably most popular TV host in the US, announced the chicken giveaway on her show and Twitter went crazy. There’s been a huge viral effect and a lot of bad press afterwards for a variety of reasons, like:
- The hypocrisy of working together with PETA (animal rights organization) one day and advertising chicken meals the other day
- Problems with accessing the website and printing out the coupons
- Overwhelmed KFC restaurants that couldn’t cope with the high demand or simply were unprepared or unwilling to offer enough of the free portions
among other issues. I do not want to cover those again. The issue I see here hasn’t been covered yet as far as I can see: The flooding of Twitter with a marketing message. Now lets just assume that we don’t contest the wort of such a campaign.
Let’s just say that it’s a nice move by KFC to offer free food especially in hard times like these.
Of course I don’t think it’s the case, to me it’s quite a cynical exploitation of the dire economic situation of many people in the US. It has been exploited for advertising purposes. I don’t want to write about advertising ethics here either though. My concern is what happened on and with Twitter on that day.
I use Twitter in a twofold manner. I use it to connect with my peers from the search marketing industry, other bloggers etc. On the other hand I use it to determine the buzz of the Web, as a social news site. I use Digg-like interfaces to get a quick overview. On the day of the coupon craze everything else has been overshadowed by a regional (US only) ad. It basically congested Twitter.
It was like a traffic jam on Twitter. Twitter was jammed with one single message.
All the social news interfaces showed several instances of it, the KFC site, the original Oprah message and repopts dealing with it.
On this day I finally lost faith in Twitter as tool to measure what’s important in a particular moment. Now who cares you could ask. As long as the advertiser’s message has come through that well it doesn’t matter. Well, was it really a success from a marketing perspective? Speaking in SEO terms it was a hugely succesful link or Twitter bait.
Brand engagement on Twitter is not a short term bait and switch tactic though.
I guess the goal was to make people visit KFC and bring along more people without coupons as well or make them come back later and buy. With the failure of providing enough free food for all people who participated this goal has failed in many cases. Many people have been ostracized. Just imagine visiting KFC and being turned away like a beggar.
What are the tasks of a brand on Twitter?
- Connecting with your fans and potential customers
- Offering discounts
- Customer service and listening to “the social media phone”
KFC did something else, it threw freebies into a crowd hitting people onto their heads. More than that: It felt like the day when for the first time the number of spam messages outnumbered the genuine emails back in the days. Shortly after I installed my first filters.