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.