Don’t blame the intern: JCPenney’s SuperBowl Realtime Marketing Fail

It’s a sad state of affairs when a brand will pretend to be in a social media crisis to get attention. Last night, JC Penney attempted to cut through the SuperBowl realtime marketing noise by crafting a moment for itself through a series of apparently drunk tweets.

JC Penney - SuperBowl Tweet drunk

Having watched many brands in similar situations through the years – you know, when interns or ex-employees go rogue or when a community manager has a few too many and presses “send” on a client instead of personal account – the brand knew exactly what would happen.

JC Penney SuperBowl Drunk

I’m really disappointed with a few things in this little stunt, but their big ‘reveal’ left a ton to be desired. I’m sure the brand thought they were being really cute and cheeky after their ‘drunk tweets’ with this one:

JC Penney - SuperBowl Tweet Response

The actual narrative probably goes a little something like this: “Oops! Sorry for the typos…we were tweeting with mittens that you actually can’t tweet on a touchscreen phone with. It’s a miracle we could get any tweets out at all! You know, big brands never check for massive typos when live-tweeting a really important Big Game. Oh, PS…we’re so lucky our friend was able to take a photo of us tweeting with another phone so we could share it with you later. Realtime marketing, yo!”

Colour me not impressed. Along with making this ‘blunder’ a bit more realistic with better payoff (yes, the not being able to actually physically send a tweet with those mittens is really bugging me), the brand could have played around with the buzz they were creating instead of sending out a single tweet to an advertising blog. You know, just to make sure they would be considered in the realtime marketing hall of fame.

JC Penney - SuperBowl Response - Adage

The brand tried to redeem themselves by adding in a surprise & delight element, awarding a select four users who had tweeted in their defense with a pair of the mittens.

JC Penney - SuperBowl Mitten Giveaways

So, what was their rationale for the whole ordeal? Via Buzzfeed…

“We knew Twitter would be very active but wanted to find a way to stay above the Super Bowl fray and instead create our own narrative,” Kate Coultas, a spokeswoman for J.C. Penney, told BuzzFeed in an e-mail. “Given it was cold, and we are selling Go USA mittens — we thought it could be a fun stunt!”

JC Penney - Follower Growth SuperBowl

Their “fun stunt” netted them approx 7,200 followers on Twitter yesterday, but it is yet to be seen whether they will stick around for the brand’s usual commentary (image via Sysomos). As far as I’m concerned, this stunt created a lot of buzz but didn’t exactly show a ton of social media know-how or creativity. At the end of the day, “success” in social is measured by internal goals set out by brand teams so I’m sure JC Penney’s social team is very pleased with themselves today. The real winners in this stunt were the brands who actually did “realtime marketing” and responded to the “blunder”.

JC Penney - Superbowl Response Snickers

JC Penney - Superbowl Response Coors Light

Not every attempt at capitalizing on natural user behaviour is a fail. Budweiser launched a @BudweiserPuppy account for its Puppy Love spot with their own series of “drunk” tweets. Let’s just say they did a far better job.

Budweiser SuperBowl Drunk Puppy Tweets

Anticipating the popularity of this year’s SuperBowl puppy x Clydesdale commercial, Budweiser pre-empted the natural user behaviour (see: @PharrellHat, @AngiesRightLeg -rip – et al.)  by creating an account for the little pup and launching it a few days pre-game.Budweiser SuperBowl Puppy Twitter account

Budweiser Puppy Twitter account

The brand sent out softball RTM tweets throughout the game accompanied by photos of the Budweiser puppy. Along with commenting on the game, the account also tweeted other brands.

Budweiser Puppy Realtime Tweets

In addition to simply tweeting, the brand also incorporated realtime-ish Vine videos, using a canned video and adding in shots of in-the-moment tweets from users. The real “response” came in the tweets accompanying each video, personalized to the context of the user tweets.

Budweiser Puppy VIne

This activation – and the spot it accompanied – can’t help but make you smile.

The moral of this story? Just because you can “market” in real time, doesn’t mean you should. Social isn’t always a fit in every situation and nothing illustrates that more clearly than cultural events like the Super Bowl where every brand and their puppy wants to hop on board. I would blame Oreo for starting this whole mess, but they’ve more than redeemed themselves.
Oreo SuperBowl Tweet

Which brands do you think did a great job on social during this year’s Super Bowl? What did you think of the whole JC Penney debacle?