Fail: Why Hanes Should Fire Their SMO Company

January 12, 2010
By Lisa Barone in Social Media

You can try and plan for success. You can do your homework, lay the groundwork and do your best to light the spark that will set the whole thing ablaze. However, sometimes beautiful things (and not so beautiful things) just happen. And you can either watch them happen from afar or you can throw yourself into the pile, take control, and grab the attention. We like to help clients to do the latter.

Something really interesting happened last week. It was odd, really. Facebook users started updating their status messages with, what seemed like, random colors. There was a “white” here, a “red” over there and even some print themes in the middle. At first, none of us knew what was going on. So we’d ask our friends. And little by little the giggles and the buzz made its way around Facebook and we all became ‘in’ on this little social media secret. For a few days, we all shared something silly. Of course, now we know that the colors referred to the bra color that the poster was wearing and it was all done as a way to bring awareness to breast cancer.  I also know that if Hanes is currently paying for social media services, they should get their money back for last week.

The meme that came to exist last week is said to have been started by two ladies hailing from Detroit. And it was cute. It was cute because it represented the type of viral that you can’t predict. The one that is homegrown, infectious and where the barrier to entry is so low we don’t feel too burdened to get involved. It was also a total missed opportunity.

While the ladies from Detroit were able to get some good buzz and solidarity going, where was the National Breast Cancer Foundation? Or Susan G. Komen For The Cure? Hell, where was Hanes or Jockey or Fruit of the Loom or the makers of these nifty high-tech bras? Where were any of the big dog brands that could have put their stamp of approval and marketing budgets on what was going on and taken it to the next level? They were nowhere.

Or how about when the JK wedding dance video that went viral and put a positive spin on girlfriend-beater Chris Brown? Where was the National Domestic Violence Hotline then? Where were any number of women’s shelters who could have brought awareness to their causes? Hell, if you don’t mind your stomach turning a bit, where was Chris Brown? He could have used the situation to maybe salvage himself and paint himself as a confused young boy who was owning up to his actions and trying to make up for it. They, too, were nowhere. The creators of the video may have tried to get some momentum going but, they’re just two regular newlyweds. The brands should have stepped in to promote some goodwill…and themselves.

When Kanye-gate happened back in September I commented on how Wal-Mart became the unofficial hero of Katrina by jumping into action to donate supplies to the workers and those affected. They saw an opportunity to tie their brand to something great and they jumped. And as a result, they saw a huge brand lift.

Lesson: Do not close your eyes to the natural viral opportunities all around you.

When lightning strikes, you act. It doesn’t matter what you were doing, what you already had planned or how much red tape you have to cut through to make it happen. You just do it. You get your hands dirty and look for a natural and useful way to attach your brand to the cause and support what everyone else was doing. Then, you add a new call-to-action to forever tie yourself with what just happened and you promote the hell out of it – both in front of and behind the scenes.

Hanes missed a huge marketing and branding opportunity last week. They’re one of the many companies that should have jumped in. They should have offered to donate money to breast cancer research for each Facebook Status update. They should have given out free bras to women who get early mammogram screenings. But they didn’t. Why was it such a big fail for Hanes? Because Hanes is the 2010 Passionately Pink for the Cure apparel sponsor. They have an entire Pink Collection that raises money for breast cancer research and their own ‘social media hub’. This was the perfect marketing campaign and it was something that grew so naturally it practically hit them in the face. I don’t know what hole they were sitting in twiddling their thumbs last week, but they should have been getting involved. Huge opportunity; completely missed. If Hanes is currently hiring someone to run their Pink Collection and build their social community…that person should be locked in a closet for a week. Because they failed big last week. Someone wasn’t paying attention.

And that’s  not okay. These are the kind of opportunities brands miss when they’re not watching social media and when you’re too stuck in your ‘yearly agenda’ to even SEE the prime marketing opportunities hitting you in the face. It’s inexcusable. Because, at the end of the day, it is he who is smart enough to act (and act quickly) that reaps the biggest reward. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. You just have to be smart enough to see the wheel exists.

When natural viral opportunities present themselves this year, are you going to take them and run or are you going to trip over what you could have done?  If you’re currently paying someone to handle your brand presence, do you know what they would have done?

Update: On Twitter, Chris Winfield brought my attention to White House | Black Market. It looks like they did put together an effort to help leverage what was going on over at Facebook with a Twitter call-to-action promising to donate money to Living Beyond Breast Cancer and lots of activity on their own Facebook page. Pretty cool stuff.

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