#WhyIStayed DiGiorno Pizza Twitter Blunder

On September 9th DiGiorno made a big mistake on Twitter. There’s a lot we can learn from this as Internet marketers, however this is not about that. In fact, it’s not even about the surfacing of the Ray Rice video or domestic abuse which the tweet ended up referencing. Like fellow Atillian Phil Stalnaker’s latest post – any connection to be had here would just be immoral content marketing.

Our New World

How did DiGiorno mess up? By posting an off the cuff joke, referencing the hashtag #WHYISTAYED and saying… “you had pizza.” Here’s a screen shot of the original tweet:

DiGiorno #WhyIStayed

Certainly at first glance this isn’t anything like the American Airlines twitter debacle back in April, where – in response to an angry customer tweet – they ended up accidentally tweeting a nude photo to their account. AA promptly deleted it and issued an apology stating:

“We apologize for the inappropriate image we recently shared in a Twitter response. Our investigation has determined that the image was initially posted to our Twitter feed by another user. We captured the tweet to flag it as inappropriate. Unfortunately the image was inadvertently included in a response to a customer. We immediately realized the error and removed our tweet. We deeply regret the mistake and we are currently reviewing our processes to prevent such errors in the future.”

DiGiorno too immediately admitted fault and apologized for their inappropriate tweet and then had it removed.

But What Was the Problem?

I saw a number of articles reference this ghastly mistake, but at first glance I couldn’t tell what the problem was.

The problem with the above tweet by DiGiorno was that the hashtag was trending in relation to the Ray Rice video featuring him striking his wife, and was a call to arms to unite people who have been domestically abused and help spread awareness of this dirty reality for many that often gets swept under the rug. Truly a great cause, uniting those that often don’t have a voice through the simple power of social media.

DiGiorno tweeted an immediate response as soon as they realized their blunder. It was a heartfelt apology, and not a PR cleanup, that immediately again rallied their followers and those that had experienced the mess back on the side of their brand.

But again, this isn’t about what we as social media marketers can learn about this experience. It’s not a case study in how to apologize. This isn’t a post about making sure to take due diligence to research and predict the collective perception of online audiences and guess how our 140 character nuggets of marketing goodness are going to be perceived.

Clearly this happens all the time. Immediately following the Casey Anthony trial Tasty Treat used the hashtag #NOTGUILTY (which was trending because of Casey’s acquittal from her murder case) stating:

Who’s #NOTGUILTY about eating all of the Tasty Treats they want?

Instead this post is about social media, the Internet, and the world we’re currently living in – and how it’s changing language.

Social Media Connects People to People

No longer are brands and big businesses veiled behind the shiny walls of large retail operations, or presenting ONLY their best face via a television, radio, or newsprint ad that took months or years to craft and massage. Sure these still exist, but they’re being countered by a much more personal form of marketing. Now social media (and the Internet) has been the great equalizer, connecting us 1-to-1 to friends, family, and even brands (or at least the companies or persons at the company that manage their accounts).

And these people are fallible.

As the above situations prove – they’re capable of making mistakes, of not researching ideas, or just not having tact. In some cases it appears they’re even capable of clicking the wrong things *GASP! And then individuals, appalled by this, rise up in mock protest with their keyboards.

Everything is Public

I was at the gym the other day and overheard a conversation from the general manager of a local upscale restaurant. He was talking about YELP & TripAdvisor. A heavyset man, in his mid-60’s, sweating profusely, talking about social media review sites. Odd.

He explained to his friend a scenario in which he thought he had properly handled a customer. He balanced the needs of the restaurant with the needs of the customer (he ended up having to move their table because of timing, first asking them if that would be acceptable) but had comped them drinks in response to help ease the inconvenience.

That week he had learned they had left bad reviews all over town.

They’re now out of business.

Meaning is Changing Fast

I remember a number of years ago arguing with my uncle. My family is predominantly jewish and he had gotten into a fight with a co-worker after she blurted out that she got a great price on a car by “jew-ing” them down. Appalled he challenged her. It turned out she thought it was simply an expression that meant – to haggle or lower the price (which is interesting in and of itself), thus explaining why she had blurted it out so merrily.

I applaud my uncle for standing up for minorities, his people, and educating this woman, but neither I or my cousin could convince him that context matters and that clearly this woman wasn’t venomous. If I recall correctly, we likened it to when kids say crazy words in which they don’t yet fully understand the meaning to – of which all of us have been guilty of at some point in our lives.

The Strange Thing About #WHYISTAYED

In doing a little research on this post I stumbled upon a nearly identical hashtag that was created by Charlotte Public Radio WFAE 90.7 #WHYISTAY. Back in May they ran a report in which they surveyed people through social media on the reasons in which they choose to live where they live.

So, in a little more than 3 months the context of these 3 words, densely compressed, and presented with a little symbol has changed.

Context and connotation is everything.

And both are changing faster than ever via social media.

This is a very interesting world we live in now where, just a couple of months ago those 3 words had a different meaning. They really don’t mean anything. Since the beginning of man we’ve always been able to mix and match letters and sounds to come up with meaning, but because we live in such a connected society, the ability for us to create language and the context, symbolism, connotation and denotation that surrounds them has never been greater.

Just a couple of days before the trending term DiGiorno could have tweeted their tweet with no consequence. And 3 months ago – it might have been referencing the reason they choose to live where they live.

But at that exact moment, it meant some particular thing.

In 2 months, it will mean nothing again. Or perhaps some other topic, brand, or person will hijack it and it will become about patriotism, nationalism, being unwilling to get out of bed on Saturday, or any number of possibilities.

Ultimately I believe the Internet is changing things for the better. But this is a perfect example of how it’s changing language and to some extent presenting a dark side of people’s egos.

But it’s only if we take a step back, analyze both the light and dark sides of the changes that are brought about by this connectedness:

  • The Ability to Connect and Encourage Dialogue
  • New Business & Opportunity
  • The Ability to Publicly Praise and Share Truly Amazing Stories
  • The Ability to Give a Voice to Meaningless Anger and Animosity
  • The Ability to Further Segregate

… as well as these changes in language and communication that we can understand what this new world means, and how we will use what is at our disposal. In our future interactions with brands and people, done mostly through text that is devoid of physical content (expressions, body language, etc.) we can choose to remain positive, giving situations, scenarios, and people the benefit of the doubt, or hide behind our screens and respond with those negative corners of our psyche.

Zach Katkin
Zach Katkin
Zach Katkin is the co-founder & CEO of Atilus. He is a Certified Google Professional, author, and lover of technology. He helps Atilus stay out ahead of online marketing trends and loves driving results for Atilus' clients.

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