Sunday, January 29, 2012

Not lovin' it: McDonald's ad campaign becomes huge Twitter Fail Whale

McDonald's can't be "lovin' it." The fast food giant, like many companies nowadays, tried to use social media for a marketing campaign, only to see it end up with a big Twitter Fail Whale.

McDonald's last week launched a Twitter campaign featuring paid-for Tweets. Those, as you probably know, appear at the top of search results. An initial hashtag campaign using #MeetTheFarmers featured stories about .. well, farmers.

Then, McDonald's made its big mistake. The restaurant chain then sent out two Tweets with the hashtag #McDStories. While #MeetTheFarmers probably didn't resonate with folks in terms of either real-life true horror stories --- or made-up snarky ones --- about the company, #McDStories certainly did.

Whether or not the commentary was true, it certainly was voluminous. An example from the ironically named @healthy_food was "I ate a @McDonalds cheeseburger a few years ago and got food poisoning so bad that I had to get hospitalized. That is my #mcdstories"

An example of a snarky Tweet was @mmemordant: "Eating a Quarter Pounder value meal makes me feel exactly the same as an hour of violent weeping. #McDStories"

At any rate, McDonald's, as do many companies, we would hope and assume, has contingency plans in case things backfire. McDonald's social media director Rick Wion said, "With all social-media campaigns, we include contingency plans should the conversation not go as planned. The ability to change midstream helped this small blip from becoming something larger."

The midstream change was pulling the #McDStories hashtag from the promoted trends list. Wion didn't comment on that, but according to another source within the company, within an hour of doing so, Tweets using the hashtag fell from about 1,600 to a "few dozen."

While not verifiable, McDonald's there said were a total of 72,788 mentions of McDonald's on Twitter on the day of the Twitter campaign, with only 2 percent of the Tweets being negative, which would mean about 1,456 Tweets were negative.

Wion added, "Our customers' positive tweets on that day (and before and after) far outweigh the negative criticism that we get."

That said, one would have to ask, "What was McDonald's thinking?" As Jason Falls of said "Walk up to any random person in the U.S. (or world for that matter) and say, 'Did you know that McDonald's uses farm-fresh meats?' and they would probably laugh at you and call you nuts.

"Whether it's true or not is irrelevant. McDonald's in this case had no idea what their true perception in the marketplace was. They didn't see their brand the way consumers did. So when they tried to portray their brand as something it wasn't, at least from a perception standpoint, they got dinged."

It's true. The overall perception of the quality of McDonald's food is not good, nor is the overall perception of the taste --- or the results of eating a lot of it on your health. The sheer volume of McDonald's restaurant and the price is what makes it popular.

At least this falls short of what is perhaps the most dismal Twitter marketing failure. Last February, during the height of the Cairo uprising, Kenneth Cole stuck Tweet in mouth when he Tweeted, “Millions in uproar in #Cairo. Rumor is they heard our new spring collection is now available.”

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