Advertising, whether magazine, television, or internet, is always a gamble. Are you targeting the people you are attempting to target? Are you reaching out to new customers, usually the goal of any advertising campaign, to bring in more revenue for your company? Social media can help as so many companies are discovering, with fan pages on Facebook and Twitter accounts offering special deals and the latest news.
McDonald's recently thought it would be a great idea to launch a hashtag campaign, #mcdstories, in order for customers to share their stories in what McDonald's ad executives saw as an “organic” marketing opportunity. It turns out their idea was far from the Egg McMuffin of advertising campaigns.
What Were They Thinking?
It all started with a simple tweet, sent out by McDonald's: ““When you make something w/pride, people can taste it,” - McD potato supplier.” It was the intention of the company that others would click the link and view the video of farmer quoted in the tweet, feel all warm and fuzzy, and conjure up their own warm and fuzzy memories of the restaurant to tweet about. People tweeted alright, just not in the way McDonald's was hoping for.
They were expecting stories such as “When I was a kid...” and the like, but ended up with a slew of criticism, remarks about diabetes and heart attacks, and stories from potheads such as “#McDStories Paid for my food but almost left cause I was high and convinced that the workers called the cops and were using my food as bait.” Yes, I'm sure that story will help sell burgers.
McD's Executive Defends the Company
Rick Wion, McDonald's social media director, says that it started out as a harmless way to get some promoted tweets into the Twitter feeds of users showcasing stories of their farmers. Not only did they send out the devastating potato farmer tweet, they also paid to have these tweets to appear at the top of the list when a user searched for two certain keyword hashtags. It seemed to be going as planned until about two in the afternoon, when they changed the original hashtag #MeetTheFarmers to the doomed #McDStories. An hour later, they were scrambling to pull the plug on the whole thing.
McDonald's used this hashtag to tweet twice, while legions of tweeters attached this hashtag to their own criticism of the company. Some slammed the company for the company's treatment of animals while others made correlations between their food and a host of diseases. By the time McDonald's was able to shift gears, the damage was already done. Wion explained they expected some people to respond negatively before launching the campaign, but I highly doubt they expected as much negativity as they received.
If any good can come of this for McDonald's, it is that it has received quite a bit of attention from all of this. It may not be the kind of attention they were looking for, but it is attention nonetheless. The tweet that started the whole fiasco remains the first tweet displayed in a search, not because McDonald's has paid for it, but because it is what Twitter calls a “Top Tweet.” That basically means the tweet remains popular and users are searching for it specifically. It is how they respond to the whole situation that will predict their future as the top fast food chain.