Villing & Company

Not Ready for a Close-Up: How to Avoid Your Own Red Lobster-Beyonce Debacle

In the aftermath of Super Bowl 50, most of the brand discussion surrounded which commercials succeeded and which ones fell flat. However, it was an interaction on social media the day before the Super Bowl of which brands should take particular note.

The day before the Broncos and Panthers faced off, Beyonce, a worldwide superstar and one of the performers at the Super Bowl 50 halftime show, released the first single from her upcoming new album. In the song (titled “Formation”), Beyonce mentions the restaurant chain Red Lobster.

(WARNING: The following video does contain explicit language, and the song and video have highly controversial political references.)

In a recent article by Fast Company, Red Lobster says their brand was mentioned 42,000 times on Twitter in the matter of an hour and became a trending topic. Great brand recognition, right? But eight hours after the single was released, this happened.

Not to say that the brand response negated or ruined all the positives that came from Beyonce’s mention, but it certainly fell on deaf ears. The response to Red Lobster’s tweet was less than stellar. The brand’s response to the response was even worse.

This brings up an important conversation for brands. Not all of us will be a part of Super Bowl weekend any time soon. And it is even less likely that we will be mentioned in a song by a worldwide superstar.

Still, your brand should be prepared.

Keys to Remember

  1. Have a Plan
    • You should at least have a hierarchy of communication in the event that your brand is mentioned online by an influencer. Who on your team needs to be notified? Who is the decision maker? Ideally, you can create a small, agile team that will be the response mechanism for your brand in these situations. This team should have quick access to any legal guidelines, and have a deep understanding of social media and the current cultural landscape. This way, they can easily and seamlessly craft a response. You will also need an approval process in place so that your brand stays true to its own voice and culture.
  2. Understand The Context
    • In this specific case, the context surrounding Beyonce’s new single was certainly a difficult one to navigate for any brand. On the one hand, you have an entertainer who is recognizable around the world mentioning your brand the day before she is set to perform on the biggest entertainment stage of the entire year. That is certainly a place any brand would like to be. On the other hand, Beyonce's message is one of social justice that she and many people believe is important, so brands must be sensitive to how politically charged these messages can be. Red Lobster’s initial response came off as completely self-serving and didn’t really make any connection to the context at play. Its only goal was seemingly to make a clever integration of the Red Lobster brand and Beyonce’s brand. By all accounts, it failed to do so.
  3. Focus on Quality
    • The pressure for Red Lobster to respond in some way was certainly great. If your brand finds itself in a similar situation, don’t focus on responding as quickly as possible. Focus on crafting a quality message. Taking the time to make sure you provide a quality response is more important than quickly responding with a subpar or insensitive message.
  4. Stand By Your Brand
    • What made this situation even worse was that Red Lobster acknowledged they had crafted a dud of a response. If they had said something that was hurtful or demeaning, then certainly an apology would have been necessary. However, their tweet was just a lack of creativity. In this case, they hurt themselves even more by acknowledging it was poor. Their best bet would have been to just move on and focus on creating quality content next time. We’ve discussed this idea on the Villing Blog before, know your brand and stand by it.

If you focus on these keys, you hopefully will avoid finding yourself in the same position as Red Lobster did.

Filed Under: Branding, Super Bowl

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