Chapstick - Another Example of a Brand Who Doesn't Get Social Media, No Butts About It

steve olenski
Steve Olenski Sr Creative Content Strategist , Oracle Responsys

Posted on November 9th 2011

Ho hum, another day, another example of a company or brand exhibiting all the traits of a company or brand who simply doesn't get it when it comes to social media - in this case Chapstick. 

In case you missed the latest example of another company who has no clue when it comes to social media or apparently the line between creativity and offensiveness, Chapstick created an ad which showed a woman bent over a couch the star group(hence my weak attempt at humor in my title ala the word "butts") trying to find her lost, container, thing-a-ma-bob... what do you call the package that Chapstick comes in anyway, tube? Whatever... The ad is to the right and you can decide for yourself if it's offensive and judging from the slew of comments from both men and women, there is a clear divide between those who think it's offensive and those who want to tell those who find it offensive to lighten up...

But there can be no debate on just how poorly Chapstick handled the outcry which ensued once the ad went public. 

You'll notice at the bottom, no pun intended, of the ad the line which reads: "BE HEARD AT FACEBOOK.COM/CHAPSTICK." Well apparently a lot of women AND men for that matter did just that and began to voice their opinion, mostly displeasure, over the ad. Hey, they figured, Chapstick wants us to be heard and this is social media after all and the consumer is the boss, so... 

But something happened on the way to social media done right... Apparently Chapstick decided that all these negative comments weren't looking all that great so what did they do? You got it... they deleted them. All of them. Anyone with a disparaging remark could not be heard after all. 

Finally, maybe after growing tired of deleting one negative comment after another, Chapstick decided to remove the offending ad and issue a mea culpa of sorts, posting this to their Facebook page:

"We see that not everyone likes our new ad, and please know that we certainly didn’t mean to offend anyone! Our fans and their voices are at the heart of our new advertising campaign, but we know we don’t always get it right. We’ve removed the image and will share a newer ad with our fans soon!

We apologize that fans have felt like their posts are being deleted and while we never intend to pull anyone’s comments off our wall, we do comply with Facebook guidelines and remove posts that use foul language, have repetitive messaging, those that are considered spam-like (multiple posts from a person within a short period of time) and are menacing to fans and employees."

Right... so we're to believe that EVERY comment fell into one of these Facebook guidelines they reference? EVERY single one... Yeah, ok sure and I'm a former Vegas showgirl. 

Let's Hear From The Source Itself...

From an article which appeared on Ad Week... 

Ray Kerins, head of global media relations at Pfizer (which owns ChapStick), acknowledged the missteps, but added: "We're committed to listening. We're committed to the dialogue. This is a perfect example of listening to your followers, your fans. We're trying to live by those words."

So, you're committed to listening you say?

Well let's go the Chapstick website to test out that theory, shall we? On their home page I see the familiar "BE HEARD ON FACEBOOK" line only this time it's tied into something about "sand" or "snow" but regardless they do provide a link to their Facebook page where one can be heard. 

Or do they?

When you click on the "BE HEARD ON FACEBOOK" you are met by this pop-up window:

the star group

What? I don't think I have seen such legalese before in this context. Is Chapstick's or Pfizer's legal department running their social media campaigns? Sure seems that way. 

But ok, be that as it may, they do still provide a "Click Here To Continue" link to their Facebook page, right?

Um... 

When you click on this link you are NOT taken to the Chapstick Facebook page but rather to Facebook.com. A simple wrong link issue? Maybe. Surely if one wants to get to the Chapstick Facebook page all one has to do is search for it but... ah, maybe I'm just too damned cynical. 

The Comments Keep Coming...

There are no shortage of comments on the blog where this all reportedly got started and also on the Chapstick Facebook page itself, which is where I found the comment I most agree with and since I do agree with it, you'll know where I stand on the is it or is not offensive side of the aisle...

the star group

While the debate can rage on whether the ad is offensive, there can be no debate as pathetically bad Chapstick handled this crisis from a social media perspective. About a month ago I wrote a post titled When It Comes To Brands, Consumers Use Social Media For This More Than Anything Else in which I shared the #1 reason consumers use social media re: brands... "The #1 reason consumers use social media as it relates to their favorite brands is to read. As in read what others are saying about their favorite brands or products or services."

People, consumers, your customers are voracious readers online and they will seek out what others are saying about you and your brand. And just because you delete comments from your Facebook page doesn't mean a) the problem will go away and b) there are no other avenues for people to voice their opinions! 

This topic is being discussed on blogs and websites from coast to coast and there is nothing Chapstick can do to stop it, nor should they. 

What they should have done is quite simple... they should have A) listened and B) responded. 

They should have listened to what people, AKA those who buy your products, are saying; listen to them and let the vent. Sure, if they cross the line into abusive and foul language, then you deal with that accordingly. But if people are merely exercising their right and doing what you told them to do in the first place, remember "BE HEARD AT FACEBOOK.COM/CHAPSTICK"...  you need to be ready to take the good with the bad. Sure, that's a tired cliche but in the context of social media, it's a cliche that should never go out of style for companies and brands alike. 

The two worst things a company or brand can do is 1) Not respond at all to a negative comment or 2) Delete the comment altogether, which is precisely what Chapstick did...many times over. 

When companies and brands do one of these two things, they are essentially telling the world, consumers that they do not care what you, the consumer, has to say. 

I want to leave companies and brands - be they business to business marketing folks or business to consumer peeps, with something I wrote in the aforementioned post When It Comes To Brands, Consumers Use Social Media For This More Than Anything Else:

"Consumers, be they prospects or existing customers are going on Twitter, on Facebook, on blogs to see what their fellow consumers are saying and what these folks are saying goes a long way in determining your ultimate success or failure. Sorry to be so fatalistic but marketers and advertisers need to wake up and smell the coffee and realize that we are living in a consumer-driven society. Consumers call the shots. Social media is their world. Marketers and advertisers just live in it. And if marketers and advertisers want to keep living in it, they best catch on quick to this fact."

Sources: Chapstick, Ad Week 

Steve Olenski is a freelance writer/blogger currently looking for full-time work. He has worked on some of the biggest brands in the world and has over 20 years experience in advertising and marketing. He lives in Philly and can be reached via emailTwitter LinkedIn or his website.

steve olenski

Steve Olenski

Sr Creative Content Strategist , Oracle Responsys

A regular contributor to Forbes, among other publications, Steve was named one of the Top 100 Influencers In Social Media (#41) by Social Technology Review and a Top 50 Social Media Blogger by Kred. He is currently a senior creative content strategist at Oracle Responsys. He is a also a member of the Editorial Board for the Journal of Digital & Social Media Marketing and co-author of the book StumbleUpon For Dummies. Follow him on Twitter@steveolenski or at the nearest coffee shop.The views expressed here are his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of Oracle Responsys.

See Full Profile >