Ever wonder why it’s spelled L-I-C-O-R-I-C-E? Don’t you think it should be spelled lickerish? Or we should pronounce it with an Italian accent like “licker-orrrr-richee”?
However you say it, spell it, or pronounce it, it seems that everyone has an opinion on licorice. And by everyone, I mean, a bunch of women sitting in Asheville, NC at the Type-A Mom blogging conference. It was there that the Red Licorice Smackdown of 2010 began (and apparently ended).
Why should you care? You might be a red licorice fan and might like to hear how it all played out. But more importantly, you might care because it’s yet another interesting case study of how social media can go right.
Here’s what I know about the origins of the story. Deb, from the Deb on the Rocks, made a comment somewhere somehow about how she likes to eat Red Vines when she travels on car trips. (For the record, I had never heard of Red Vines before this conference). Ilina, of Dirt & Noise fame, challenged Deb’s taste in red licorice. Specifically, she made some challenges on Twitter.
If you are a consumer and Twitter user, you already understand what this means. If you are a company, let me explain. It means EVERYONE is listening. It means EVERYONE is hearing the conversation about YOUR product. What does that mean for you? It means now would be a great time to get engaged.
Hats off to Red Vines. There were listening as Deb mildly complained that Red Vines are so difficult to find in this part of the country. (I’ve been told they are big on the West coast). They jumped into the Twitter conversation. They offered to send fresh product. The Red Vines supporters at the conference made this well known.
Okay, with me being a Twizzlers fan, I thought, where are they on Twitter? Why aren’t they listening?
I looked for Twizzlers on Twitter. No account. Nothing. Okay, think Fadra. If I were a company that wasn’t on Twizzler but still had a big marketing budget, where might I be? On Facebook! Yes! I found the Twizzlers fan page. I liked them and I posted. But I was disheartened to see that their Facebook fan interaction was every few days at best.
I sent them a note anyway. Hoping they might hear and they might get engaged.
I searched again on Twitter and found at least that there was a Hershey’s account (Hershey’s owns the Twizzler brand). I tweeted. Again, my hopes weren’t high. While they had over 1000 followers, they were following only 2 people. And they had 0 tweets. Let me reiterate that. ZERO tweets. Even Red Vines chimed in that I was highly unlikely to get a response from Hershey’s.
Now for the stunning conclusion…
I got a tweet from Anna, the PR maven for Hershey’s, from her own Twitter account. She had finally gotten wind of the controversy and was not going to let Team Twizzler go down without a fight. After a few tweets, we actually got on the phone and worked out some logistics.
She wanted the bloggers of Type-A Mom to be able to experience Twizzlers at their finest. She had the Twizzlers driven from the factory over to corporate where she wrote 30+ labels for shipping overnight to the hotel. And those Twizzlers came in droves.
The hotel staff was more than happy to help and were quite amused by the whole thing. I promised them as many Twizzlers as they wanted. I scarfed a box for myself and then hid them away. To be fair to the sponsors of the conference, we didn’t want to start distributing them at will. But anyone who sat near me will tell you that you could always find a bag of Twizzlers in my hand.
In the end, I never did try Red Vines. From what I heard, they shipped multiple flavors to the hotel. I actually wish I did get a chance to try them. I love that they were listening and got involved in some playful banter. More importantly, they used that banter as a way to get their product in front of 350 potentially influential bloggers.
Hershey’s was admittedly late to the game. And it’s not unusual. Bigger companies are slower to embrace change. It’s harder to embrace change. With risk comes liability and for bigger companies with more at stake, the adoption process can be cripplingly slow.
In talking with my friend Morgan, from Media Two Interactive, she tells me that getting bigger companies to embrace social media is a process. It starts with them understanding the value and then the philosophy. It’s a shift in thinking to accept that consumers have a more powerful voice than ever and the kiss of death could be ignoring that voice. Once a company gets engaged, they often have to approve every tweet, every status, every update. An approval process for social media??
I hope smaller companies like the American Licorice Company, parent of Red Vines, continue to stay engaged with their fans and potential fans at a grassroots level. People appreciate the open line of communication. (And hats off to Mike Kelly, their Consumer Communications Manager, who puts great personality into his tweets).
I hope larger companies, like Hershey’s, learn to embrace that intimate communications are what consumers are starting to expect.
And finally, I hope everyone out there has a chance to someday experience fresh-from-the-factory Twizzlers. They are absolutely divine. Go Team Twizzlers!