Super Bowl XLIX has already come and gone, but its emotional impact is still being felt, and I’m not even talking about the game. The consumer reaction to this year’s crop of commercials has seen more intense debate than I have ever witnessed before, and really it was about time. From the consistent “Dad-vertising” themes to the jarring Nationwide ad highlighting child safety, it was clear people felt the ads got too real for a venue like the Big Game.
At Brand Cool, we decided to follow the Coca-Cola campaign that featured the hashtag #MakeItHappy – an effort to take the negativity that exists on social media and turn it into something positive. The plan was definitely working; reaction to the campaign was actually positive and provided what I thought were two brilliant metrics-based features. Because, let’s be honest, good intentions can end up being just that when trying to create massive behavior change. It was smart of Coke to minimize doubt about the campaign right off the bat by showing actual results. For starters, the company and users could call out negative tweets and then have their negative words scrambled into fun ASCII images like this one:
They also provided a ticker that monitored the activity of positive posts in real time, resulting in a “happiness index” people could track. We started monitoring the feeds around 6pm and by the time the game was over, there were more than 320,000 posts flooding the Internet with happiness, more than 55,000 of which came during the game. No doubt, the pre-game hype had worked and engagement was in high gear for those who visited the campaign site and social media feeds. In case you missed it, here is what some actual content looked like throughout the campaign:
But of course, in this day and age, someone wanted to turn the experiment on its head and make an example out of a large company trying to actually do some good vs. overtly “selling” to us. The day after the game, the news feed site Gawker decided to create a fake twitter handle, @MeinCoke, and then consistently use it to quote the book Mein Kampf along with the #MakeItHappy tag. It was created to supposedly teach Coke a lesson that their happy images could be manipulated right back in their face. As Gawker kept tweeting passages from the book, Coke’s methods created images with those same passages. Of course, once Coke caught on (297 tweets later), they were no longer happy, and I thought their reaction was the least happy thing the company could have done.
Based on the so-called success of the Gawker bot, the Coca-Cola Company watered down the campaign with their photo based “Smile Petition.” There has been little other response from Coke toward Gawker in kind (pun intended) to try and beat them at their own game. Even Gawker’s readers have chastised them for the stunt. Certainly the soda company was worried others might try to pull the same thing, but with only 80 followers to date, was the @MeinCoke “crisis” really enough to make them pull the most effective part of the campaign? If the petition was the natural next step for the campaign as Coke has stated, how come there have only been 6 tweets promoting it since February 2nd? Also, because of the nature of hashtags and social media, you can’t just put the brakes on a campaign when you choose to anymore. I, for one, am intrigued to see how the campaign will live on organically without further support from the company.
“The #MakeItHappy message is simple: The Internet is what we make it, and we hoped to inspire people to make it a more positive place. It’s unfortunate that Gawker is trying to turn this campaign into something that it isn’t. Building a bot that attempts to spread hate through #MakeItHappy is a perfect example of the pervasive online negativity Coca-Cola wanted to address with this campaign.”
What can we learn from all of this? From a human perspective, it’s obvious that we have some ways to go before ridding ourselves from the trolls that use bullying and negativity for no reason other than the fact that they simply can. From a branding perspective, the #MakeItHappy campaign will be seen as a failure despite driving heavy engagement and encouraging other brands to use their own ad buys for something else, something higher than what we usually expect…creating kindness and changing our behavior for the better.