A few weeks ago, when I was on my short commute to the office, a commercial on the radio came on for Walgreens. The gist of the radio spot was along the lines of “Be sure to stop by your local Walgreens for snacks. We have soda pop, candy bars, and chips!” And the spot ended with Walgreen’s slogan.
“At the corner of happy and healthy.”
As you know, I don’t usually publicly call out specific companies in my blog, but there are some important lessons here for all of us. The mixed messaging in that radio spot left me perplexed. Healthy? Sugar-filled drinks and candy, and salt- and fat-laden chips are definitely not healthy.
It seems to me that somewhere in the line of communication between Walgreens’ marketing department and the advertising agency that created the spot, the company’s mission got lost, and nobody questioned the final messaging.
So, being fairly active on social media, I did what most people would do—I took my confusion (and curiosity) to Twitter. (I’m @Karen_Kiwi, by the way.) My expectation was that someone behind @Walgreens would reply back to me, but no one did.
I asked my marketing team to do a little research on Walgreens’ social media activities. It seems that Walgreens only posts “positive messages” and does not address any tweets that might be perceived as negative.
So, I tweeted the same message a second time, and, as expected, I did not hear back. I’m quite sure, however, that I wasn’t the only one who talked openly about Walgreens’ mixed messaging. Within a day, I noticed that the radio spots were no longer about the unhealthy snacks—they are now (finally) aligned with the slogan. Even if Walgreens’ policy is not to respond to negative social media comments, clearly someone is reading them.
This marketing mishap teaches us a few things.
1. An organization needs to communicate its mission, standpoint, and values to everyone it works with—not just within the company. This means articulating both what you DO and DON’T stand for. And being true to your brand and sticking to your mission aren’t just for company employees; they’re for everyone who works with and for your company.
2. Advertising and social media marketing messages must be aligned with your organization’s mission and values—even if you use outside agencies.
3. If your company is on social media, don’t be afraid of criticism and negative comments. The most important thing when something negative is posted on Twitter or Facebook is to respond honestly and in a timely manner. In the world run by Generation C (aka Millenials), the digitally connected 18 to 34 age group, an unanswered query on social media is a big red flag that the company is either hiding something or doesn’t care about its customers.
Lesson learned for me: don’t be afraid to share your observations or opinions even if it’s just on Facebook or Twitter. You never know what impact you will have!
Have you had a similar experience with organizations that send mixed messages? I’d love to read your stories, so please feel free to comment below.