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.

O no, say it isn’t so.

So the Twitterverse reacted to an idiotic tweet posted by SpaghettiOs last week to commemorate the 72nd anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor.

The post featured a cartoon version of the SpaghettiOs mascot Mr. O grinning, licking his lips, jauntily waving an American flag and the line “Take a moment to remember #PearlHarbor with us.”

So many social media lessons here beyond the obvious: pause before you hit send. This move gives new meaning to the catchphrase, “Uh-Oh SpaghettiOs.”

Where to begin?

Let’s start with relevance, or in this case the glaring lack of a link between a canned Campbell’s pasta product and a day of infamy that claimed more than 2,000 lives and changed the course of World War II and history.

Then there’s good taste. A tragedy such as Pearl Harbor or 9/11 should be remembered with somber respect, not a hokey mascot or product placement.

AT&T learned that lesson the hard way in September when it tweeted “Never forget” and a screen shot of a smartphone photographing the beams of light from the World Trade Center bombing site. The backlash was immediate. AT&T yanked the tweet and posted a mea culpa, and the company CEO released a personal apology.

As both AT&T and SpaghettiOs now know, Twitter is real-time communication that can spiral out of your control in no time. While SpaghettiOs only has some 12,000 followers, Twitter users such as actor/blogger Wil Wheaton (2.4 million followers) and comedian Patton Oswalt (1.5 million followers) retweeted with derisive commentary. Oswalt’s feed even set off photo-shopped posts of Mr. O at JFK’s funeral, on the sunken Titanic and at the Hindenburg disaster. He also quipped: "I know how we'll fix this! Somebody photoshop Mr. O shaking hands with Mandela!" -- damage control at the @SpaghettiOs Twitter feed.”

SpaghettiOs' in-house team also got ripped for the 10-hour lag – which translates to 10 days in social media time -- before the post was taken down and replaced with “We apologize for our recent tweet in remembrance of Pearl Harbor Day. We meant to pay respect, not to offend.”

In fairness, not all of the comments were negative, but the takeaway was a definite #fail.

Since this is my final column of the calendar year, my wish for 2014 in social media is this: May your posts be relevant, witty, timely and prompt an “oh!” rather than “uh-oh” response.

Happy holidays to all.

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