My Final Word on Ragu

I promised everyone a follow-up to the whole Ragu mess that I initially ranted about here, and then offered some free advice here.

This morning, I had a brief call with a manager from Unilever (Ragu’s parent company) and employees at two agencies. I was not provided the names of these agencies, so I still don’t officially know who was involved — and at this point, I just don’t care.

Recall that this began with me wanting to help a brand use social media better than they were currently doing — and once again, I’m walking away feeling empty about the whole experience.

Before I tell you about the call, let me say this: I know I shouldn’t care so much about a poorly executed campaign. I shouldn’t care that yet another brand is trying to be for everyone while really only wanting to talk to some.

But, the fact is, I do care. I do hate seeing silly mistakes being made. I hate seeing something that could be great falling down and being less.

I refrained from writing this blog post for several hours after the fact so that I could fully digest the call with a clear head, including the comments that were made, and reactions as a whole.

I told the representatives on the phone that I think the overall goal of Ragu’s campaign makes sense. Getting kids to eat, providing healthy meals and having an open conversation around this is awesome because all parents face these issues. I also complimented them for realizing that their target audience was mothers, focusing on that market, and naming the program with that solid focus on moms.

Those strategies make sense. That’s good old fashioned marketing. Define your audience, and then go after it.

Do I think this is more of a parenting issue than a mom issue? Damn straight I do, but I’m sure they had their reasons for focusing on only half of the parenting equation. That is Ragu’s decision. To each their own, right?

However, I also reminded them of another longstanding business and messaging strategy: If you want any other audience beyond your target market to be interested in your product, you must make them feel welcomed.

When my first interaction with a brand is an @ spam on Twitter … and when I engage and yet see nothing to welcome me … that is a turn-off. Follow that up with a video that insults me and my friends? Yeah, not exactly the welcoming committee I would have expected.

This is something I’ve taught people and companies for years. A community needs to feel welcoming if you want to see it grow. If a brand is truly trying to reach parents, then it must to use that word and have photos and content featuring of all sorts of parents. If you’re trying to reach teenagers, you don’t fill a website with photos of Grammy and Grampa, do you? I’ve never understood why this was so hard to understand.

From the beginning of this conversation, this was my reaction and my story. I wasn’t trying to influence anyone or change the world with a post. Yet as a recognized expert in this field, I have more than a good idea of what I’m talking about. I’ve developed and executed enough campaigns to know what works and what doesn’t.

Know this: Ragu’s misstep has moved to the top of my “what not to do” examples I’ll discuss on stage in future client presentations and keynotes.

For in the end, Ragu is yet another company that’s using a traditional marketing mentality to run their social programs. It doesn’t work. The company wants to engage people — and yet are not behaving like people themselves. They’re spamming prospects and ignoring opportunities to interact.

I’m still struck by that. In the past few days, this critical conversation has generated hundreds of comments, tweets and posts … and the brand has not replied to a single one of them. That’s shameful.

Silence is not a solution in social media.

 

Update: After all of this, Ragu finally comments somewhere about this whole thing.

  • Facebook User

    But you didn’t tell us about the conversation!  How did they react?  Did they acknowledge the problem?  Seems to me the issue wasn’t so much the stereotyping as the half-assed attempt to get influencers involved without really wanting to engage.

    Ragu’s advertising was done by JWT when I was there in 2007, don’t know if they’re still the lead on it

    • http://www.cc-chapman.com/ C.C. Chapman

      I’m being professional by not sharing the details, but I thought this post would showcase that it didn’t go well at all.

  • http://anabellebf.com/ Anabelle

    I’ve heard about this through Twitter but didn’t have a clear idea of what the Ragu thing was until this morning.

    I’m not a SM expert by any means and yet in your first post I could see everything that was wrong with the campaign.

    My question to you is: can a brand ever recover from a blunder like that, and how would they do it?

    • http://www.cc-chapman.com/ C.C. Chapman

      Of course they can. All they really have to do is say the magic little word that to date they haven’t and that is…

      Sorry.

      But, the reality is that a month from now many people won’t remember. They are still going to sell their product and people are going to buy it.

      They have an opportunity to bounce back even better from all of this and actually be social and engaging. Will they? Who knows. Could they? Most definitely.

      • Anonymous

        And after the magic word (sorry), they should engage you and others who have commented, tweeted and otherwise published their opinion, and see what they should be doing going forward.

      • http://www.cc-chapman.com/ C.C. Chapman

        BINGO and so far they have not done either.

      • http://www.facebook.com/davevandewalle Dave Van de Walle

        Let me tweet you a recipe.

        What I’d love – absolutely LOVE – to see on the part of the marketers (the brand, the agency, whomever) is picking up the gosh darn phone before this whole thing starts and making a couple phone calls. Heck, if they had run a Google Search on “top dad bloggers” or whatever, I bet they could find a few phone numbers…I’d connect the dots from there, but I’d need to charge by the hour.

        Sorry this happened to you, CC.

      • http://www.cc-chapman.com/ C.C. Chapman

        No worries. It happened and I hope that it ALL (not just my posts but all the other great ones I’m seeing) help other brands do better.

        And what is this amazing invention called a phone you mentioned?

  • http://www.hightechdad.com hightechdad

    Well said CC. You presented a clear case, voiced your opinion, and even offered free suggestions on how to do the social media engagement better. It’s important for people, companies and/or brands to learn from their mistakes, but if they don’t admit it, then they aren’t learning or even listening. People and companies are allowed to make mistakes, just not the same ones again, so it will be interesting to see if Ragu and the other companies will do things differently in the future. 

    There are so many opportunities for Ragu here, but I agree that silence is not one they should pursue.

  • http://justinkownacki.com/ Justin Kownacki

    This reinforces my observation that there’s no such thing as a social media disaster.  Sure, social marketing can HELP a company (awareness, sales, etc.).  But there hasn’t been a single social media gaffe I can think of that’s destroyed a company’s brand image, no matter the size or scope.  Which should actually be good news for social marketers, because it means there’s no such thing as a nail in the coffin.

    • http://www.cc-chapman.com/ C.C. Chapman

      Well said. It is usually bad business decisions combined with social that can destroy a company.

  • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

    And, amen.

  • http://www.knealemann.com Kneale Mann

    I will forever vehemently defend those words some like to toss around and think they mean something without effort – community, connection, interaction, engagement, human business, relationships. You, CC have been hammering home this very fact since I started reading your posts 8 years ago. Mitch Joel wrote a brilliant piece about this today as well  http://www.twistimage.com/blog/archives/its-not-marketing/

    As someone who has worked in every advertising medium, I will echo your words when consulting a company on television, radio, outdoor, mobile and yes even direct mail. Be human or your ROI is nothing short of guesswork.

    Add to that, many are focused on the wrong letter. You cannot have R until you give it proper I. Ragu and countless other examples prove that being human is not the desire but rather increasing the revenue line. As a guy who used to build and program radio stations, we lived by the mantra that it was not our job to dictate the tastes of the audience but rather reflect them. And in order to do that we must actually really actually ASK THEM.

    We have seen strong evidence that going after a certain gender or age group works, that (as you say) is basic marketing. But when your goal is to get more kids to enjoy your product you have to pay closer attention to the family unit in 2011 which includes same sex parental situations, single parents, nuclear families etc.

    Oh sorry, singing the the choir. I was just waiting for my telephone company to tell me that my call was important to them.

    • http://www.cc-chapman.com/ C.C. Chapman

      *laugh* Thank you for chiming in and for the kind words about me and my work.

      What you laid out is exactly right and I know that many of us are trying to do it right while so many others are doing it wrong.

      Someday they’ll all wake up right? I hope so.

  • http://www.jeffreysass.com sass

    The key line is this… “When my first interaction with a brand is an @ spam on Twitter … ”  They invited you into this by overtly contacting YOU with a twitter message.  You didn’t just pick up on this campaign randomly and start blogging about it.  They contacted you and literally invited you in, and now, reading between the lines, they’re not happy with the way the “conversation” went (“conversation” used loosely).  Opportunity lost.  Lessons learned (more by readers of the various opinions, than by the brand…)

    Onward and upward…  P.S. I LOVE the image!  Did you find it, or go through the trouble of dismantling a can of alphabet soup???  Either way, awesome.

    • http://www.cc-chapman.com/ C.C. Chapman

      Yeah there is PLENTY to read between the lines here :)

      Actually I went out and bought the image so that I could use it since it was so perfect. I had thought about breaking a jar of sauce in my kitchen, but the cleanup effort wasn’t worth it :)

  • http://www.bobgoyetche.com BobGoyetche

    Well then, let’s at least get something out of this..

    I propose the phrase “It got Ragu’d” when a social media outreach goes after the wrong people then ignores the replies.

    • http://www.cc-chapman.com/ C.C. Chapman

      I probably shouldn’t be laughing as hard as I am at this, but I can’t stop giggling.

      I’ve seen it used a couple of times like that already on Twitter which was fascinating to just watch happen.

      Thanks for making me smile.

      • Anonymous

        It would be cool if we could get it to trend….

  • http://www.inflectionmethods.com Joel Capperella

    It has been interesting to follow the saga CC.  Could there be a little more nuance to the problem however?  Agreed that applying traditional marketing to social can be a  bad mix, but certainly it should be acknowledged that traditional segmentation will always remain a necessity regardless of what is being marketed.    So could it be that really what Unilever did here was to violate one of the basic rules of segmentation by not actually keeping the segments just that. . .segmented?  If Mom’s who own the meal making responsibility was their target this begs the question why engage a blogger / social media ‘personality’ such as your self when you are clearly not in that segment.  So I guess I’m wondering if what it really illustrates here is just how amplified poor segmentation decisions can be when social media marketing is applied to them?  I honestly don’t know, but just a thought. 

    • http://www.cc-chapman.com/ C.C. Chapman

      I agree completely with you that was a big fail in this campaign. I tried saying that in the post.

      Reaching out to me because I’m a “daddy blogger” when the segmentation is only for moms is a mistake. One of the biggest they made for sure.

      • http://www.inflectionmethods.com Joel Capperella

        Could it also be that this problem is only just beginning?   I came across this piece today in the LA Times about increased hiring for ‘social media experts’   (see link below) and know more than my fair share of colleagues who believe they can simply just go find a college kid to start tweeting for them and call it a social media strategy.  So I wonder if things such as this from a big company foreshadow not only more of it to come, but also do a great service to the honest to goodness social media consulting types who can educate and execute well by marrying traditional marketing with the new tools and tactics. 

        http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-social-media-jobs-20110929,0,6158114.story

  • http://www.tjgallivans.com Tom

    Glad to see you took the high road.  

    Ragu’s case is the very definition of insanity.  That and the taste of that drek is the reason Ragu is almost always on the bottom shelf.

  • http://www.joemanna.com/blog/ Joseph Manna

    I’ll happily include this incident and their lack of a response as an example of how to suck at social media. They handled it poorly. They launched it poorly. They had horrible execution.

    Love your take on it!

  • http://www.facebook.com/robusdin Rob Usdin

    On the topic of helping people use social media better – on a small scale I run into this all the time.

    Every time I see a business on Facebook using a friend account, I cringe.  I have sent messages to countless local businesses politely explaining how a page is better.  Most of the time, nothing happens.  Occasionally I get a nice message back, and occasionally I get a rather snide message back saying they know what they’re doing.

    All I’m trying to do is help.  When that help goes unnoticed, or unheeded – it does sting. I care like you do – I WANT these companies to use social media in better ways.  But utlimately if they don’t want to choose to understand it, you can’t force them to.  And it hurts, but at the end of the day – it’s their loss and their bad publicity to take.

    –*Rob

    • http://www.cc-chapman.com/ C.C. Chapman

      Exactly and for every time it stings, it makes me appreciate a well done campaign that I help make happen even better.

  • Anonymous

    C.C.

    You said,

    “Before I tell you about the call, let me say this: I know I shouldn’t care so much about a poorly executed campaign. I shouldn’t care that yet another brand is trying to be for everyone while really only wanting to talk to some.”

    I think you (and all of us) absolutely should care and I’m glad that you do.

    Why?

    Because to the uninitiated, they see these less than stellar (ok, terrible) campaigns as the way marketing is done on social media and figure it’s just business as usual (read spam) for marketers there. That makes it much more difficult to fix the tarnished reputation of marketing that was built over years of junk mail and pop-up ads.

    So, keep fighting the good fight and acting as the marketing world’s “advance guard.” We all appreciate it.

    Kevin

    • http://www.cc-chapman.com/ C.C. Chapman

      Thank you Kevin. WELL played with The Advance Guard reference. It made my afternoon.

  • http://noahdavidsimon.blogspot.com/ Noah David Simon

    you mean Ragu knows the difference between Mommy and Daddy? wow… that must be really offensive to you. Makes me want to stop eating the local farm made organic sauce that I eat in upstate New York because I could care less if a corporation knows what the politically correct don’t.  Listen pal.. advertising executives might be acting like Bonobos… and good for them, but they know their target has a little problem with those who can’t tell the difference between a penis and a vagina. good for corporate America.  They might kiss your elitist ass for the short term, but in the long term… they know how to make a buck. here is the tiniest violin playing just for Gloria Steinem.  you can hate me… and hate me… and keep hate’n me… you can even get a few pals of yours to lock me up in Seattle for being a smart ass… but in the end… Ragu don’t like you. Ragu You Pal!

  • http://www.thejackb.com/ The JackB

    If they had an ounce of sense they would go out of their way to engage with fathers. There are tons of us online. We really aren’t hard to find,

    They would be well served to do more than start the conversation and take an active role. But I am willing to bet that there are “staff” that don’t recognize or understand the online marketplace and would rather pretend that they aren’t missing much.

    • http://www.cc-chapman.com/ C.C. Chapman

      You are correct on both points.

      So many brands could learn from this and I hope some do.

  • David Meerman Scott

    Thanks for keeping us posted C.C. I’ve learned a lot from this interaction. I hope Ragu and their unnamed agencies do too. 

    • http://www.cc-chapman.com/ C.C. Chapman

      You are most welcome. It wouldn’t be fair not to let everyone know how it turned out.

      Of course, I really wonder IF they will actually change.

  • http://www.google.com/profiles/jeff.harbert#about Jeff Harbert

    I often say that outstanding customer service only needs two things: 1) Permission, in the form of
    good business management, policies, and procedures. 2) Giving a damn. Sounds like this was a complete failure on both fronts.

    • http://www.cc-chapman.com/ C.C. Chapman

      Well said Jeff and you are completely correct about neither of them being there.

      Then again I’ve never been a customer of the brand so perhaps that is another problem.

  • Kiran

    On behalf on many cooking dads – THANK YOU!

    • http://www.cc-chapman.com/ C.C. Chapman

      You are welcome!

  • Anonymous

    Okay, I missed all of this and have spent the last 20 minutes or so reading posts and watching video.   Forget all the Dads and Moms for just a minute and focus on the children.  I’m a Mom raising a son and I don’t think it’s a good idea for a company to basically be telling my son that Dads are worth less than Moms are.   My son will hopefully grow up and have his own children and I really resent the mentality that he will contribute less to the raising of his children than their mother will.

    • http://www.cc-chapman.com/ C.C. Chapman

      Wow….you totally hit on something that most have missed.

      I’ve got a son and a daughter and feel exactly the same way that you do. I want them both to know that any relationship is a partnership and both have to be active, present and part of it for it to work.

      THAT is another reason why I hate this stereotype so much.

  • http://twitter.com/CAAdvertising C.A Advert Solutions

    I feel your pain. Hopefully most companies will figure it out…one day…

    This being said, kudos on your tone throughout your postings about it! You kept it very professional.

  • http://twitter.com/kivey105 Kim Iverson

    Once again CC, I couldn’t agree with your opinions more.  My husband is the chief chef & grocery shopper and the thought that he contributes less to the raising of our son is ridiculous.  It is unfortunate that they didn’t research who they were sending the spam tweet to.  2 minutes on Google & they would have known better (you would hope). 

    I also don’t believe the blogger on your Update link gets it.  You didn’t seek out this video for yourself.  It was sent to you by the company.  That’s a complete fail in my book.  Thank you for putting this out there and keeping us posted.

  • Bobbie {OneScrappyMom}

    Yet, you decline to share any details of the conversation. You decline to share all the conversation they HAVE had with dads on the brand on Facebook. You decline to give them credit for doing anything right. You decline to admit (at least on your blog) that you shot at a brand and expected a reply (your title was hasty and you admitted it elsewhere, but not here). I don’t care how much of a speaker or “professional” you are, you made mistakes.. but Ragu is the only one being called out? 

    • http://www.cc-chapman.com/ C.C. Chapman

      I haven’t seen any of these other conversations you’ve mentioned but if you’ve got links I’d love to see them. I saw one comment from them today on the CustomScoop blog and that was it. Maybe they are talking to other dads and if they are then that is awesome and I’m glad to hear it.

      As for them doing anything right I said it was smart of them to have a campaign designed just for moms if that was their market. Told them that on the phone and said it here. Could it have been better in my mind, sure. But, they are doing fine with it. Trying to make it cross over to dads in the way they did wasn’t so smart.

      Of course I’m not going to share the details of the conversation. That would be completely unprofessional.

      And yes I expected a reply. Anyone who takes issue with a campaign like this would expect a reply. If a brand is not ready to talk to the people THEY reached out to then they shouldn’t do it in the first place.

    • http://twitter.com/peterkim Peter Kim

      Bobbie, don’t you think you should disclose that you are “an Ambassador in the Ragu Moms the Word on Dinner Program”? http://onescrappymom.com/2011/09/dinner-dilemma-balancing-the-dinner-budget/

      You clearly have a financially-related incentive to participating in this thread – the ethical move would have been to disclose your affiliation.

      • http://www.cc-chapman.com/ C.C. Chapman

        Wow. That sure paints everything she said in a whole new light. Wondered why she was the only person getting so angry. Thanks for sharing this.

      • http://www.cc-chapman.com/ C.C. Chapman

        I did a little research on the whole ambassador program from what I am told is not paid at all. The women who appear in the videos are compensated, but not the ambassadors. NONE of that is official, but came from people familiar with the program so don’t quote it as gospel.

        This still should have been disclosed and I’ve got to say that I’m extremely disappointed that someone would raise such a fuss and not disclose this sort of information.

      • http://www.mdurwin.com Michael Durwin

        Peter, nice catch. Bobbie is obviously a great ambassador since at the very least she continued Ragu’s tradition of not getting it.
        When a brand reaches out to you, whether it’s a good engagement or not, it’s not your responsibility to research everything they do. Because you weren’t effected by that other stuff. CC was effected by this particular engagement and it was a turnoff. It was not incumbent upon him to see if deep down Ragu were good guys who liked dads. CC got a tweet that sent him to a video with a bunch of women who crapped on men. I’m very sorry that these gals married a bunch of duds. Perhaps they should ask their men to be more creative in the kitchen, (I’m sure their husbands can think of other rooms where they’d like their wives to be more creative) and everyone would be happy.

  • http://www.davemadethat.com Dave Delaney

    I’m glad it’s dealt with. I hope they learned a valuable lesson. 
    I only hope I know Ragu a campaign like this. ;)I also agree with @sass:disqus , what an awesome picture!

    Cheers.

  • http://www.attentionmax.com maxkalehoff

    So Bobbie is paid by Ragu? Wow. Not cool! Go Fairway house brand Marinara!

  • http://richardrbecker.com/ Rich Becker

    Hey C.C., 

    Sorry I missed all the fun on this one. But Ragu is so off my radar (because it literally makes me sick), I didn’t check it out earlier. I make my own sauces and when my wife cooks, I’ve asked to pick anything BUT Ragu (she’s started making her own now too). Not because of this campaign, but because it’s an inferior product anyway.

    All the same, you have been right all along about the stereo typing. I’m very tired of the clueless man stereotype. I cook four nights a week, mostly gourmet and always varied from a broad range of international cuisines. 

    Great series. All my best, 
    Rich

    • http://www.cc-chapman.com/ C.C. Chapman

      Same here. They were never a product I used. Too bad their one attempt to get on my radar (and other dads) was such a fail.
      Made a big vat of my own sauce this weekend. Mmmm!

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  • http://womeninbusinessradio.com Michele Price

    CC I appreciate your follow up with more data and conversation.  While I have originally stated I felt the protest was a little much, you have since settled back into more of a discussion mode, and it feels more productive.

    As far and the Mom Dad thing, how can you be upset for women expressing their experience.  As much as we would like no stereotypes, we have them to a degree because while they are not absolute, there is often a thread of truth in them.

    How do I know because I have seen it first hand.  I do like the point Terrick made about fathers not contributing to parenting in equal manner.  Thing is while this was something I LIVED in the early 80’s, it still is not a completed lesson for many families.  This iniquity still exists.  Today’s messaging needs to start picturing what we want more of, vs what we want to get away from.

    I do agree it is not cool that Ragu has not reached out or joined the conversation with the rest of us online.  For their failure to be a part of the conversation I give them a thumbs down.

    Funny thing is every social media campaign has areas they can do a better job.  As for Ragu now, the fact that we all have a megaphone, they might want to be a little smarter about acting like we are invisible.  That is where CC I would say feels insulting.

  • Anne Saulovich

    Okay, but what did Ragu have to say?

    • http://www.cc-chapman.com/ C.C. Chapman

      Nothing much except the phrase “we hear you but” over and over for the most part. Short call that I left not feeling good about at all.

      They’ve followed up with some posts on their FB and on Mediapost and have yet to ever send any of them to me or ever comment on any of the questions here.

      • http://www.mdurwin.com Michael Durwin

        In other words, Ragu could give a shit, they just wanted to quiet you down.

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  • http://www.mdurwin.com Michael Durwin

    There’s been alot of back and forth on this blog and other blogs about this incident both supporting Ragu or against, for CC and against.
    Here are some truths:
    1) Yes, this was a campaign sharing the feeling of mom bloggers. But, it was OBVIOUSLY focused around one subject: men can’t cook. I’m sure moms face a myriad of issues around children and food, so why no discussion about the quality of school lunches, or the steady increase in costs for groceries as household incomes shrink? No, Ragu chose to use comments specifically focused on these moms’ opinions that their husbands are failures in the kitchen. That is a fact.
    2) I can see Ragu’s point that this was targeting moms and mom issues, so why send a direct link via Twitter to CC and several other dad bloggers? I’m not sure exactly what they were thinking. Did they think it would spur conversation around mom and dad kitchen skills? Did they hope for just the kind of drama they’d get? Were they hoping that CC and the other dads would would jump on board and start using their blogs to chastise men for being less than supportive with kitchen duties?
    3) Ragu is clearly not ready to expand it’s audience target. Too bad, Ragu and it’s competitors are nice additions to the grill. Ragu is focused on moms. According to BusinessLibrary women plan meals  52% of the time and 47% of families say the woman always or usually does the shopping. While women are in the majority for meal planning and shopping, it’s obvious that we’re at a tipping point where parents are taking equal share of the responsibilities in the kitchen. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics 41& of men handled food preparation. Now, Ragu may think they don’t need to care about these statistics, unless they’re interested in profits, in which case it may be time for them to shift their circa-1950 demographic ideals.
    4) While one aggressive commentor took CC to task for not talking about other ways in which Ragu engages with dads, was it really his responsibility to do so? Ragu reached out to CC and shared a sexist, one-sided, insulting video campaign with him. This is his reaction to it. It’s not CC’s job to review the breadth of Ragu’s marketing efforts.
    5) As for whether or not this was a successful campaign overall despite the rumpled feathers of CC and the other dad blogger, try a search on Ragu. The first 3 organic results belong to Ragu (note: not anyone else talking about Ragu, just the brand itself), the 4th belongs to Wikipedia, the 5th is CCs original post Ragu Hates Men. The 6th is FutureBuzz.com talking about CC’s blog post. Now, visit the video on YouTube (http://youtu.be/CXoFKt-5j6o) and you’ll see that while the video only received 5,803 views EVERY SINGLE comment was negative from both men and women. So you tell me: success or failure?
    6) Someone should publish the names of the agencies behind this!
    7) CC offered Ragu advice likely worth twice what Ragu paid their agencies.

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