retail news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kate McMahon

"Kate's Take" is brought to you by Wholesome Sweeteners, Making The World a Sweeter Place.

Welcome to Watergate 2013.

We are referring, of course, to Florida Sen. Marco Rubio’s awkward lurch for a bottle of Poland Spring water and subsequent slurp during his Republican rebuttal to the president’s State of the Union address last week.

Within minutes the Twitter universe lit up with #watergate tweets, and social media watchers anxiously waited for Poland Spring to capitalize on its prime-time product placement moment.

And waited.

And waited.

Even Rubio himself good-naturedly tweeted a photo of an empty Poland Spring bottle right after the speech and has since parlayed his guzzle into a $125,000 boost to his campaign PAC coffers through the sale of Rubio water bottles (certainly abetted by a "Saturday Night Live" spoof).

But as the hours ticked by, and the gulp was replayed on newscasts, parodied on YouTube and the talk of Twitter, Poland Spring remained radio silent.

When contacted the next morning a spokesperson said: “I haven’t seen what’s going on on Twitter.”

Not an acceptable response, particularly for the top-selling spring water brand in America, owned by the multi-billion dollar international conglomerate Nestle.

And finally at 1:20 p.m. Poland Spring weighed in with a Facebook post showing a tiny Poland Spring bottle looking at its reflection in a mirror with the caption: “Reflecting on our cameo. What a night.”

Witty, yes, but way too late. The headlines that followed shouted “squandered,” “missed opportunity” and “fumbled.” The Huffington Post compared the 14-hour lag to “roughly 14 years in social media time.”

Turns out Poland Spring stopped posting on its two Twitter accounts as of July 2010 and January 2011, respectively. Really?

The lead-footed response had the bad luck to follow a timely moment of social media marketing by Oreo during the Super Bowl blackout. Oreo was already in the game with a commercial, but tweeted “Power Out? No Problem” and a picture of an Oreo with the caption “You can always dunk in the dark.”

(Tide also sent out a tweet saying “We can’t get your blackout. But we can get your stains out” and Walgreen’s chimed in with “We do carry candles” but it was Oreo that got all the attention.)

In fact, the Oreo tweet was retweeted 10,000 times in one hour and lauded as the advertising winner of the night.

And it illustrates the phenomenon that major nationally televised events are essentially “two screen experiences” – what people are watching and what they are tweeting simultaneously.

Since Oreo had a commercial airing during the Super Bowl, cookie execs and its ad agency team had gathered in a “mission control center” to watch the game and monitor social media channels.

With all the key players on hand, they were able to design – and get approval for – a witty graphic within minutes.

Granted, Oreo had a multi-million dollar investment in the Super Bowl telecast and Poland Spring had no way of knowing its product would capture the nation’s attention, thanks to a parched freshman Republican from Florida.

But the two cases illustrate that real-time interaction with consumers on social media is dictating the discussion. If you aren’t prepared to join in, you will find yourself left high and dry.

Comments? Send me an email at kate@morningnewsbeat.com .
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