Oh man, another Twitter crisis.
This time, Red Lobster is headlining (yes, headlining) for not tweeting an immediate and profound response to Beyoncé after learning she referenced them in her new single “Formation” (and this wasn’t just any mention—Red Lobster was positioned as a reward for good sex). According to news reports, all Twittersphere eyes were eagerly awaiting Red Lobster’s response only to see what they perceived as a lame series of “unsexy” tweets after eight hours. Some were so outraged at the lack of creativity they called for the firing of the marketing department, PR team and social media manager.
Could it be that Red Lobster, a FAMILY restaurant, was debating if it was wise to respond to a reference that wasn’t exactly aligned with their brand? That, while forever thankful for the immediate sales boost, they didn’t want to potentially offend their existing loyal customer base? That they were being cautious of any potential trademark issues that could arise if they were seen as capitalizing off a global celebrity brand? That they wanted to play it safe on purpose?
In the old days, we might see this as thoughtful due diligence. However, in today’s immediate digital world, it is often seen as corporate failure.
Digiday recently provided great perspective on how marketers are trying to serve two masters when it comes to social media – being socially relevant while, at the same time, protecting brands:
“Social media outrage has become the primary thread running through the cultural quilt. Everything is an “epic” or “cringeworthy” fail, and there is a gleeful gotcha at play when the Average Joe catches a brand stumble, however innocuous. Brands, ever protective of their image, and the agencies they employ not only can’t keep up — they disagree over whether they even should.”
Yes, should. Like we tell our kids, just because you CAN, doesn’t mean you SHOULD. Sometimes the best course of action is to watch and wait. However, Red Lobster likely knew it was in a no-win situation. If it didn’t respond, it would appear to be tone deaf. If it did, it needed to be in a big way. By looking at its Twitter feed, Red Lobster uses its page to primarily give friendly customer shout outs and respond to service issues. It likely does not have the resources devoted to producing award-winning social media commentary on a dime. And that’s likely okay based on its brand personality and consumer base.
It’s also time social media consumers regain perspective on what requires crisis-level response. Companies that negatively affect the safety and well-being of others have an obligation to respond in the most urgent, honest and transparent way. Those that accidently offend should quickly repair the damage with a genuine apology. Red Lobster doesn’t fall into either of these categories.
So Red Lobster, your tweet was not an #EpicFail. You didn’t deserve the bullying on the Twitter playground by armchair quarterbacks. You were just trying make the Cheddar Bey Biscuits.