Today’s consumers are more empowered than ever to raise their voices and speak out when brands do something to spark their ire.
And it would seem that the old adage “there’s no such thing as bad publicity” isn’t quite true in the realm of social media.
But is that really the case?
It’s an interesting question to ask in the wake of a tweet posted by KFC Australia, which generated buzz around the world.
Not surprisingly, KFC Australia quickly came under fire for its raunchy, suggestive tweet.
— Mike Hauser (@Hauser_Mike) April 15, 2016
— The Radical Feminist (@thirdwavefem) April 15, 2016
The tweet was quickly deleted, the company apologized, and there was speculation that the person responsible for the tweet would soon be looking for a new job.
We are very sorry for our earlier tweet on H&S – we didn’t mean to offend and removed it when we realised we’d made an error in judgment.
— KFC Australia (@KFCAustralia) April 15, 2016
But while KFC Australia was taking incoming, the company found itself trending on Twitter and the subject of numerous articles, this one included.
That led some to ask a salient question: despite the furore, was KFC Australia really benefiting overall from its faux pas?
Whether or not you got offended by @KFCAustralia‘s tweet, it worked coz it’s trending. The hyper-offended are now advertisers’ easiest promo
— Flight Facilities (@flightfac) April 16, 2016
Vocal non-customers, and exceptions to the rule
While KFC Australia’s tweet might be considered distasteful by more than just the “hyper-offended,” a quick survey of reactions on Twitter finds that more than a few people were willing to write the tweet off as a savvy marketing ploy.
@ajplus ppl these days get offended by evrything. It is funny and clever.
— Silent_D (@Asian_Darkness) April 16, 2016
Additionally, some of the harshest criticism leveled at KFC Australia came from individuals who admitted they weren’t customers.
This is a useful reminder that sometimes a company’s most vocal critics in social channels are not the individuals the company is trying to appeal to in the first place.
I wish 1) I wasn’t vegetarian and 2) I didn’t insist on eating real food, so I could boycott @KFCAustralia for promoting misogyny.
— Casey Phoenix (@caseyphoenix) April 15, 2016
Obviously, there are exceptions to the bad publicity rule.
For example, most companies would not find an environmental disaster to be a productive source of PR.
And brands probably shouldn’t make a habit of trolling social media lest it leave a permanent imprint on their brand.
But when it comes to occassional “error[s] in judgment” like KFC Australia’s, for better or worse, it looks like the ill effects of any negative buzz are often quite limited.
On the other hand, while the attention garnered is likely to be short-lived, it would seem “there’s no such thing as bad publicity” can still hold true in the age of social media.