As a follow up to my post about Cap’n Crunch and its Facebook campaign, Quaker Oats / Pepsico brand manager Barbara Liss gave me the story of how she and her team had to respond to the escalating rumor that Quaker Oats was discontinuing Cap’n Crunch.
Her team’s response, and how the company generated over 560 media placements to combat the rumor, makes for an exciting and informative story.
“I was flying home from South by Southwest a couple of weeks ago and my phone literally lit up with messages,” reports Barbara. “Rumors had surfaced that Cap’n Crunch might be headed for retirement and consumers, media and even our employees immediately contacted the company to find out if the rumors were true. We knew we had to let people know ASAP that Cap’n Crunch was here to stay.”
Social media gives companies lots of benefits: you can “listen” to your market; you get instant feedback; you can respond to people’s complaints (or praise) in real time; you can engage one-to-one.
Social media also had a dark side. One rumor — whether based in fact or not — can set off a firestorm that can knock your company flat on its butt — if you’re not prepared.
Liss and her team were prepared, but not for an Internet rumor of their cherished brand being discontinued. In planning for a few months, Quaker Oats had been developing a Facebook / Twitter campaign for Cap’n Crunch.
The rumor, however, made it imperative that the team get the social media assets live — in less than 24 hours — as well as combating the rumor via the media.
“We had a lot of emails flying back forth between us and our agency, Vayner Media” says Liss. “They worked with us and got everything up and running within the shortened timeframe.”
What can you learn from Quaker’s experience?
1. Have a plan in place — even if you’re not sure you want to do social media
The key to Quaker’s success is that they had done all the back-end work in the months leading up to the rumor. Liss said she and her team realized they didn’t have the bandwidth to run a full social media campaign that a brand like Cap’n Crunch needed — “We really didn’t want to do it half-heartedly,” she says — so they put the campaign out for bid. They chose Vayner Media due to the agency’s solid track record in building online communities.
From there, the agency and the Quaker team created the brand “back story,” with the Cap’n returning from years at sea and having to learn to live in a world now consumed by Twitter, Facebook, smartphones and texting lingo.
2. Have a really close relationship with your agency.
If you’re going to outsource your social media, it pays to work with an agency you trust. Liss says that she and her team are in constant communication with the team at Vayner. “We email back and forth all day long,” she says. The Vayner team knows the brand parameters and knows what it can and cannot post to Twitter and Facebook. “For example,” says Liss, “we have to be really careful about what is said regarding nutrition due to federal guidelines.”
If the Vayner team has any question about what can be said, team members email Liss.
3. Leverage the combined power of traditional media, social media.
In addition to its social media campaign, Quaker Oats was able to pull multiple levers to address the rumor, leveraging social media, traditional media, consumer relations and even employees to help get the word out that the Cap’n was alive and well. The company generated over 560 media placements for 160+ million media impressions — for free.
Today, the Vayner team makes every effort to respond to Cap’n Crunch fans on Twitter and Facebook one-on-one. “We knew people were passionate about the cereal,” says Liss, “but this whole experience made us see just how passionate they are.” In fact, the brand now has over 33,000 Facebook fans, with people telling Quaker to bring back the retro packaging and to issue coupons.
As a Cap’n Crunch fan myself, what I like best are the posts from people who say they’re about to eat — or have eaten — a bowl of the cereal. It just shows that when you have this type of passion from brand loyalists, you really need to take care of them by responding to them and making them feel — dare I say it? — loved.