15
41
Gini Dietrich

The Lesson Brands Can Learn from Ragu

By: Gini Dietrich | October 5, 2011 | 
113

I’ve been thinking a lot about Ragu and the “crisis” they created by tweeting their video to social dads in a very offensive, and spammy, way.

Having read what C.C. Chapman (here, here, and here) and Adam Singer and Arik Hanson and Michael Schechter (on this very blog yesterday) wrote, I think everyone is missing the biggest lesson of all: Twitter is not a promotion and publicity tool. It’s not a sales tool. It is a social tool.

Granted, I’m not sitting in the room with Ragu and their agency while they decide their strategy, but based on experience, I can make an educated guess that they likely used Klout to determine who to target with their tweets.

And what do we all know about Klout? It’s a great FIRST step in determining influencers if you don’t already know who they are (and if you’re in PR and you don’t know who your client’s or company’s influencers are, shame on you!). But it’s NOT the way you develop your list and begin sending links to those perceived influencers.

Let me show you what I mean.

Following is their tweet stream the night this all broke loose.

For those of you who use Twitter, do you see the problem?

For those of you who don’t use Twitter, how does this make you feel?

This is akin to standing in the grocery store, seeing a man walk in (with or without kids or even with or without a wedding ring on) and saying, “Who makes dinner in your house? Mom or dad?” and then throwing a jar of Ragu at him.

Now let’s say you’re standing in the grocery store and you ask every man who walks into the store the same question, while throwing a jar of Ragu at him, and the first man you did this with is leaving the grocery store at the same time.

What do you think he’s thinking about you and your jar of Ragu as he hurries to his car, in fear of being accosted again?

It’s not good. In fact, he’s probably hurrying home to tell his wife or girlfriend or partner what a weird experience he, and every man in the grocery store, had with the people from Ragu.

Now multiply that by 1,000.

Adam Singer said it best during a speech he gave this past spring: If you aren’t using the tools yourself, you won’t understand how to use them effectively for your client or your company.

So, the moral of the story to businesses around the globe, if you want to use the social tools to help build awareness and increase your sales, make sure you’re working with people who understand their use. It’s easy to discover whether or not they’re using the tools themselves because it’s all online.

Don’t just take their word for it. Do your due diligence. Find out what other successes, and failures, they’ve had.

It used to be companies hired PR firms for the relationships they had, or could easily create, with journalists. Now you hire them for their expertise not only in the digital world and integrating it with traditional tactics, but also in creating relationships with bloggers and influencers to match those with journalists.

Please, please, please make sure the experts you’re working with understand, and have relationships with, the influencers you want to target. And that they understand how each tool is used differently, but in an integrated way.

That will help you avoid some of these issues.

About Gini Dietrich


Gini Dietrich is the founder and CEO of Arment Dietrich, an integrated marketing communications firm. She is the author of Spin Sucks, co-author of Marketing in the Round, and co-host of Inside PR. She also is the lead blogger at Spin Sucks and is the founder of Spin Sucks Pro.

82 comments
DoTime_WX
DoTime_WX

Would think a company that's been around should know better, but these are new water's for some. Without any relationship or trust, Ragu was accosting men (like your example of the supermarket). Though this mishap shouldn't effect sales, it's still a lesson to be learned. Build trust / relationship first before flagrant sales pitch.

Howie Goldfarb
Howie Goldfarb

If I was Ragu I would blame everything....................on BP

jenzings
jenzings

Gini, spot on. I wondered about the Klout aspect too--and all this incident does is reinforce what many of us have been saying for a while: identifying influencers is the *first* step in the process--not the only step. Researching (to make sure you have the right influencers) and relationship building (to make sure they are willing to receive your message) are the next steps.

All of it takes time. And that is the lesson for the communicators: shortcuts just aren't worth it.

CC_Chapman
CC_Chapman

Thank you for such a dead on accurate post full of advice that I hope more than the brand in question will learn from!

T60Productions
T60Productions

Hi Gini... this is the first I'm reading about this, so I went back and looked at the blogs you linked to.

As a video producer, all I can say is, "Ugg." As a dad who does all the cooking and shopping in the family, all I can say is, "I'm glad my Italian grandmother taught me how to make my own sauce."

--Tony Gnau

rachaelseda
rachaelseda

I bet you wrote this post because you think they'll send you a case of Ragu so you can write something nice about them and even better eat Ragu pasta on your Thursday video....hahaha ;). Great post Gini, I think one of the first things I learned in college is...KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE, apparently some people missed this class!

keithprivette
keithprivette

I am going to venture a guess that the overall population of people that buy Ragu will never read any of these posts, do a search on ragu, knew that they were owned by Unilever, care about the fauxpology. Now with that said, does that underscore the major missteps here by a brand that is large enough to know what works (ummm 5 years now with plenty of information to get educated, nope excuse). Yes push the envelop but understand the ecosystem of dynamics. I do believe @CarlThress said it best below.

The one thing I truly like is the dynamic discourse this has caused amongst some really intelligent, savvy, and professional folks I highly respect. It seems this may be a catalyst to have real discussions about the good, the bad and the ragugly. I do believe what @thebrandbuilder Olivier Blanchard has been discussing about bad firms & folks overshadowing the minority of good and brillant ones may becoming to light now!

jonbuscall
jonbuscall

Awesome and utterly sensible response @ginidietrich . The fauxpology was nauseating and demonstrated immediately that this is an old world company trying to do new world PR.

TheJackB
TheJackB

Gini, part of the problem is that many brands still haven't figured out that giving control of social media to young and inexperienced staff is just as "dangerous" as it would be to do so in print/broadcast.

In fact, we could argue that it is worse. With the immediacy of social media and the ease with which things can go viral it is quite risky to let the less experienced drive the car.

On a side note there has been a push by fathers (myself included) to become a larger part of the conversation between brands and consumers. We can get a little strident in response to being portrayed as novel for being involved with our children.

MarcGirolimetti
MarcGirolimetti

Oh @ginidietrich how you are going to learn a lesson the hard way. For writing a lessons learned post your ridiculously amazing, home cooked, Italian feast, courtesy of me will now involve jarred sauce. Don't ever cross me like this again.

<Kiss left cheek> <Kiss right cheek>

DavidPylyp
DavidPylyp

This is a wonderful post about walking into a room [business] screaming about your brand and walking out. @unmarketing makes this point directly when he talks about real estate agents who's entire twitter / facebook stream is about their listings.

Social Media is about being social, engaging and communicating with people.

I'm Trying to Get it!

David Pylyp

ExtremelyAvg
ExtremelyAvg

"If you aren’t using the tools yourself, you won’t understand how to use them effectively for your client or your company." <I love that quote.

I couldn't have said it better myself. In fact, I would have said it much worse, possibly using a profane word or three, and casting aspersions on their intelligence, hair cut, and personal hygene.

People who want the next big shinny thing in tech, but are waaaaay too cool to actually stoop to level of the 'dregs who use that stuff' (me), and give it a try, piss me off.

I hadn't actually heard about the Ragu debacle, but I can tell you, I won't be buying their product any time soon...unless it is on sale...or I'm hungry...or it is 20 minutes from now (I have a short attention span). I digress.

Great post.

MSchechter
MSchechter

That's totally what I meant to say...

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@DoTime_WX I agree it likely won't affect sales and that it's a good lesson to be learned...for everyone.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@jenzings The thing that kills me is this is not different than building a media list. I know some people use that as their only step (which is why reporters hate PR pros, generally speaking), but it's meant to be the first step.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@rachaelseda That, literally, made me laugh out loud! I make my own sauce a couple of times a month (and freeze it) so what I should have done is the Thursday video while eating my own sauce and talking about this. Dang! I wish I'd thought of that before now.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@keithprivette I agree @CarlThress said it best below. And I agree that this likely won't hurt sales and the mass consumer will never hear about it. But what talking about it does is help companies understand what not to do and not to shy away from the social tools, just because of stuff like this.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@jonbuscall I keep reading the Media Bistro article to see if I'm missing something, but it seems very much like they called their buddy over there and asked if they could submit an OpEd. Like you said, very old school.

Erin F.
Erin F.

@TheJackB Oh, I have horror stories about people who let their teenagers or volunteers manage their social media. *shudder*

I think the stridency is understandable. Most of us experience that feeling in regard to something about ourselves. Maybe that's just me...I don't like to be pigeonholed. :)

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@ExtremelyAvg Yummmm...pasta. I mean, what?

Based on the apology you just read, they clearly state they're using the tools. But, if that's true, the thing that gets me is they're showing "results" as 1.5 million people engaged. Great. What does that do for sales?

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@MSchechter Your blog post was fantastic! Your lessons were more geared toward the influencers, which was needed and appreciated. I'm just irritated by the lack of knowledge that companies are using, when it comes to the social tools. It's not like no one is writing about them.

TheJackB
TheJackB

@krusk That is clearly not an apology. That is a thinly veiled slap at those who took issue with the incident. Why not come out and say that they think that CC and anyone else who took issue have trouble with reading comprehension.

CarlThress
CarlThress

@krusk Just read the response and found it puzzling that Unilever is taking the recipients of these tweets to task for basing their criticism on the very content that Ragu shared in the tweets. "Very few of the most vocal opponents appeared to take the time to visit the Ragú community on Facebook or watch the other episodes in the series before taking to Twitter and the blogsphere with a point of view conceived via the lens of six errant tweets." Ummm.... maybe that's because those six errant tweets were the ONLY engagement Ragu ever had with them. Did Ragu say, "Hey, come join the conversation on Facebook" or "Be sure to watch the other videos in our series." No. They tweeted a single link to a single video in a very spammy way. Why should the recipients go out of their way to look at other Ragu content, if they found Ragu's only engagement with them to be offensive or annoying? (Short answer: They shouldn't. It's Ragu's job to give them a reason to.) The bloggers were reacting to the ONLY content Ragu EVER provided to them... and to the way Ragu chose to do so. Based on Unilever's response, it doesn't look like they learned a whole lot from this episode, except how to play the blame game.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@krusk I have to let this sink in. One of the things Domino's did really well, when they were under attack a couple of years ago, is they took to the platform where they were being attacked. Using a traditional PR tactic to explain your social mess seems off. I have to think about it.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@krusk Oh no! I didn't see it. I'll go read it and be back in a minute.

rjfrasca
rjfrasca

@ginidietrich I think those are all Folgers ads. Apparently Unilever hired someone that worked for P&G circa 1960 to run their social media. My absolute favorite is the "Vacation.. yeah I'd like to take a vacation... away from your coffee" I laugh every time I watch it :)

keithprivette
keithprivette

@ginidietrich yes yes please don't shy away from these platforms, ecosystems or strategies, but for godsakes learn from them. Wonder what would have happened if a regular person (you know not a digital native) had the same reaction and took on this charge? Would they been ignored? Apologized to?

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@Erin F.@TheJackB I know @dannybrown will disagree with me, but I always ask clients, when they want interns to use the social tools for them, if they let interns go to big new business meetings or meet clients on the golf course. If the answer is no, I tell them they have their answer.

krusk
krusk

@TheJackB Right. If you read responses to some (not all) of the blog posts from the brand, the same sentiment is apparent. EVEN IF they were right and everyone else was wrong... Take the high road, apology, accept responsibility, promise to do better next time.

ExtremelyAvg
ExtremelyAvg

@CarlThress@kruskI just read the link too. You hit the nail on the head, Carl. I think the 'Fauxpology' made me want to write my own blog piece ranting against their inability to admit their mistake.

Had they written, "We were wrong. We're sorry. We'll do better next time and try to be more engaging first." I would have wanted to write a post forgiving them, while I enjoyed some of their product. Their would have been a photo and it would have looked yummy.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@rjfrasca I loved, "Again?!" As if making crappy coffee is the end of the world.

ginidietrich
ginidietrich moderator

@keithprivette It's like you said...there are plenty of people who are writing about the proper use of the tools. Learn from them.

Danny Brown
Danny Brown

@TheJackB@ginidietrich@Erin F. That then boils down to the company as opposed to the person. Doesn't matter if you're an intern or the new VP Marketing - if your role isn't clearly defined, you're set up to fail.

TheJackB
TheJackB

@Danny Brown@ginidietrich@Erin F. Danny, I don't disagree with your point about using resources effectively.

The question is will there be oversight and any sort of training. That is a related issue and a problem at a lot of companies.

They don't have any formal or informal training so employees just kind of work and hope that they last long enough to learn.

Danny Brown
Danny Brown

@ginidietrich@Erin F.@TheJackB Here's the thing - I never said interns should be allowed the keys to the castle. However, I DID say that many interns - because of when they were born and how they've been raised - have a far higher skill set at social tools than some of the smartest bosses at a company.

So, if they can be overseen by these bosses and provided with the goals of the social interaction, why wouldn't you use the best people for the job? Which, in many cases, are interns.

Besides, years of experience and business acumen still leave you making huge mistakes...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VL2313MRn1E

TheJackB
TheJackB

@ginidietrich@krusk Yes. It struck me as being written by someone who isn't sorry and is convinced that they bear no responsibility for what happened.

Trackbacks

  1. […] also touch on the Ragu “crisis,” which was created by some spam tweets and a few upset daddy bloggers. And we discuss the features […]

  2. […] Just one?! Ragu just had a big misstep using Twitter. Marie Callendar’s created its own crisis with bloggers. It’s great there are […]

  3. […] of what I read these days is all about failures. Blogger outreach failures. Twitter failures. Facebook failures. Even Pinterest failures (Ok, not yet, but give it a […]

  4. […] excited about our products, and finding new ways to connect with them in a really genuine way. We often hear about the horror stories, but not always about those who are doing it […]

  5. […] of what I read these days is all about failures. Blogger outreach failures. Twitter failures. Facebook failures. Even Pinterest failures (Ok, not yet, but give it a […]