Don’t Blame Poland Spring for its Slow Response

Posted by: in Social Media Insights & Trends, Thought Leadership on February 14, 2013

Failing to Seize the Moment Through Compelling Content is the Bigger Miss

The “gulp” seen round the country – Poland Spring water was thrusted into the media spotlight the moment Marco Rubio quenched his dry mouth during the Republican response on Tuesday night.  Immediately, it lit up twitter boards, and the brand was trending for, what I’m guessing, was the first time in its history thanks to the hashtag #watergate.

Since then, there’s been limited response – and media including the Huffington Post and Fast Company and others are criticizing/questioning the brand for missing the boat and being slow to respond.  On the surface I can understand where this is coming from, but I don’t think that Poland Spring even had boarding documents for the boat in the first place.  Comparing their slow response rate to Oreo’s during the Super Bowl blackout is like comparing Starbucks to the mom & pop coffee shop across the street.  No doubt, Oreo’s social media team nailed it and seized an opportunity that most of us who manage a brand’s online presence covet the most.  But to expect the same nimbleness from Poland Spring is highly unrealistic, and the criticism for not responding sooner should be kept to a minimum.  Here are a few reasons why, I’m assuming (or defending), Poland Spring couldn’t have done anything much faster than what they already did:

  • “On Your Guard” – Oreo had an army of people in a war room who were on duty during the Super Bowl, given their $4MM ad placement during the game.  Included in that mix were community managers in addition to brand teams who could authorize and approve the content in a moment’s notice.
  • Agile Creative – Brands like Oreo are creative powerhouses.  Given this, I have to assume they have an arsenal of pre-approved photography in their wheelhouse, given they are already one of the most socially savvy brands online.  Affixing an Oreo against a black background to signify the blackout was probably fairly easy, by their standards.  Poland Spring has photography too, but it’s not like they could lift Marco Rubio’s likeness without legal consequences.  Creating original content from scratch takes time when you’re not prepared to do so, and the approval process can be even longer if they’re not at-the-ready the way Oreo was.
  • Channel Readiness – it’s clear that Poland Spring isn’t active on Twitter.  They have a little over 700 followers, follow 3 people and have sent out only 38 tweets in the brand’s existence.  So while all this conversation was happening on Twitter, it seems they’ve long ago made the decision that they aren’t Twitter ready, or their audience isn’t primed to accept Poland Spring communications via Twitter.  Not every brand or topic deserves a Twitter presence, and other than having this sudden fame, the other 364 days in the year would have little Twitter communications.   I’m assuming here, but I doubt highly they’d have the expertise or capacity to respond in real-time even if they wanted to. If they’re not set up to respond to this once-in-a-lifetime event, there’s no way they’d be set up to create a meaningful engagement strategy that seizes their new fan base, either.

The bigger miss in my book was the creative response.  It was cute, but barely memorable and not shareable, so it only lived on their Facebook page.  The brand turned the attention back on itself, rather than creating something that was highly relevant to the moment.   It conditioned itself to a celebrity walking down the red carpet, basking in its own glow.  In the social media world, the brand needed to take on a playful humility to extend the engagement – not a “look at me, I’m so popular” image.   The image failed to leap out of their news stream and become shareable to the 1 Billion people on the channel – so that’s the bigger missed opportunity, in my opinion.

It’s true that brands today have to be able to respond quickly and effortlessly when a golden opportunity falls into their laps, such as this.    If rapid response is a barrier, as was the case for Poland Spring, then the content has to be smart enough to compensate.  But, even more importantly, the brand also has to be prepared to maintain the audience with a meaningful engagement strategy going forward.

By: Craig Alperowitz

Craig leads the Consumer Team at the W2O Group, responsible for a variety of CPG, entertainment and retail brands.

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One Response

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  1. Brian said

    Sometimes doing nothing is the best strategy in the contrived and predictable world of social media. They got press for “not doing something” from several major outlets.

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