We have seen it before, a brand which commits brand suicide on social media by reacting insensitive or just plain stupid. What usually happens, is that the brand fires the social media agency, posts an apology and is done with it. But have you ever seen a partner of a large brand commit murder on social media? Brand murder..? This is what just happened to Virgin Mobile USA. Let me explain...and let this be a lesson kids...
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Virgin Mobile USA as partner of Buzzfeed
We all know Buzzfeed, the pageview hording, social media pushing, meme aggregation website started by former founders of TheHuffingtonPost. From Wikipedia:
BuzzFeed is a website that combines a technology platform for detecting viral content with an editorial selection process to provide a snapshot of "the viral web in realtime". Co-founded in 2006 by Jonah Peretti (who is also cofounder of The Huffington Post), BuzzFeed is located in Manhattan, New York in the Flatiron District.
In itself a strong concept, where the platform of Buzzfeed combines clever ways to use social network sites to get more visitors to their content. Facebook comments are very well integrated, where the comments are directly placed on people's wall. I use these here as well, so feel free to leave a comment.
Brands can partner with Buzzfeed to sponsor a page for their brand, where the right navigation bar is showing the brands latest Facebook and/or Twitter posts. This could work out for a brand, if they are in need to get more visitors of Buzzfeed to like their Facebook page, or follow them on Twitter. This is what Virgin Mobile USA is doing, apparently the company is a partner for Buzzfeed, where there is a page full with articles. So far so good you would think...
But what happens if you let the editors of Buzzfeed place any article on the brand page of their partners? And what happens when those articles are automatically promoted/sponsored on Facebook by the brand? Right, you could get a horrible mismatch between how a brand might want to be perceived by the users of its products, and how it actually portraits itself. Let's have a look at the following Facebook Sponsored post by Virgin Mobile USA I spotted today;
Yes, you are reading that right, the post Virgin Mobile USA is promoting on Buzzfeed is mocking people for not being that pretty, handsome or cool, so we hope we will never see those people to promote themselves on OKCupid. Let me repeat this, Virgin Mobile USA is promoting the discrimination of people based on how these people look like! And yes, Virgin Mobile USA is prominently placed right next to the offensive article on the Buzzfeed page, just check out this screenshot:
Luckily, this all plays out in social media world, where the brand now can get immediate feedback on their Marketing campaigns. And with this one from Virgin Mobile USA, people are for sure letting the company know they disapprove of the endorsement of the Buzzfeed article! Here are a few:
- Anybody else think it's a little unprofessional for VM to be making fun of people? You're a phone company FFS
- This is totally inappropriate for a nation wide company to be doing! What if one of those people was your own customer???
- What kind of jerk company puts up insulting and degrading advertisements like this? Poor judgment...
- I really hope Virgin Mobile has the permission of these 20 people to be bashing them publicly. Because if they don't, it's not only wrong, but VM can have the living hell sued out of them for this.
- Screw you all. These people may be ugly, but they deserve love and they can use their money how they feel.
- Is this a joke? Really?! How about this for a post: One Person Who Will Be Cleaning Out Their Desk at Virgin Mobile Tomorrow.
This time it was not the brand itself committing suicide, but the partnership with Buzzfeed really put Virgin Mobile USA in a bad light. Any brand should pay attention to their sponsored posts that go up on Facebook, and what kind of content they associate their brand with. Unless you want to use the "insult" hook to get people to "love" your brand, you better stay away from such insulting content!