How can lip balm be controversial? Just ask Chapstick – they’ve managed to offend a lot of people with the image they chose for a new advertisement and, moreover, how they chose to deal with the backlash on their Facebook page.

Chapstick is the latest example of a brand mishandling negativity over a new advertising campaign – a prime example of how NOT to use social media when it comes to managing your reputation online.

What many companies don’t realize is that, for the most part, Americans are a forgiving group of people. We watched as Britney Spears fell from grace, but now she’s a judge on the popular television show X Factor with millions of people rooting her on. Michael Vick was involved in an illegal dog fighting ring and served time in jail for the conviction, but now he’s the starting quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles with a strong fan-base. Chris Brown was charged with felony assault for beating his girlfriend, pop star Rihanna, but he continues to be a celebrated member of hip hop community.

What do these three people have in common? They all admitted their mistakes, apologized, asked for forgiveness, and explained to the public how they plan on changing their lives for the better. Any publicist will tell you that trying to cover up a controversial event will only make matters worse. Owning their actions and taking responsibility for their mistakes is the only way that celebrities or famous athletes can begin to repair their relationships with the American public – and that goes for brands, too, not just people.

So when Chapstick ran this ad -

- featuring a woman bent over the back of a couch looking for her lost Chapstick (we know where they were going with this ad: read Dan’s latest post about how sex sells in the marketing world), and they received criticism on their Facebook page by people who found it offensive, did they take ownership? How did they handle the backlash?

They deleted the comments. Big brand management no-no.

To make matters worse, in bold letters at the bottom of the ad it says “BE HEARD AT FACEBOOK.COM/CHAPSTICK.” Perhaps a more accurate call-to-action would’ve been “be heard – as long as it puts our brand in a positive light.”

If Chapstick wants to use social media as a place where consumers can go to give their honest feedback and “be heard,” they’ll need to be prepared to take the bad with the good. Here are my two pieces of advice for Chapstick, or any brand that is faced with a similar situation:

  1. Listen to people’s complaints, and apologize to those you have offended on your Facebook page where the public can see your response.
  2. Be prepared to handle criticisms as well as praise & approval whenever you launch a new campaign – especially if you direct readers to your Facebook page where consumer feedback is a fundamental part of social media for businesses.

What do you think about Chapstick’s decision to delete negative comments from their Facebook page? Join the conversation on Twitter using #brandchat or email me at pryan[AT]webimax.com.

  • http://www.facebook.com/KristinaWeis Kristina Weis

    That's pretty bad, but the "Be heard" line on the ad just makes it so much worse. Ouch.

    • Emily Cornell

      Interesting lol

    • Janel Pettit

      As an LT user of the brand I had to check this out. Good case study of getting it wrong – seems so obvious at this point!

      • Patty Ryan

        @janel – we see these kinds of social media/brand management mistakes all the time! you’re right, it does seem obvious at this point…the best way to react to negative comments is to respond in kind. connecting and engaging with customers is a great way to establish trust – deleting their feedback is a great way to break it.

    • Patty Ryan

      @kristina – definitely. from the feedback i read on twitter, most people are more offended by their “censorship” of the comments than the actual ad itself. some companies’ hypersensitivity to negative comments (which are pretty much inevitable) makes the situation even worse!

  • Aliza Earnshaw

    I think it would be great if Chapstick asked people offended by the ad to submit their own versions. They could turn it into kind of a fun "vote for the best" contest.

    • http://www.webimax.com Chris Countey

      That’s a great idea!