• Sensei-Banner-Customer-Acquisition6
  • Sensei-Banner-Customer-Development5
  • Sensei-Banner-Customer-Relationship5
  • Sensei-Banner-Influence-Marketing5
  • Sensei-Banner-Influence-Marketing-Book4 (2)

Starbucks’ Hijacked Twitter Campaign Could and Should Have Been Prevented


Measuring and analyzing sentiment around a brand is becoming an important part of a business’ marketing and PR strategy. As a discipline, it seeks to understand the tone of the conversation occurring online around a business’ product, brand and/or that of its competitors. Using social media monitoring software like Lexalytics, Viralheat or Trendspotter (to name a few), marketers look for the context of social posts, the popularity of specific product-related topics, or the audience’s overall attitude as it relates to the product and brand.

Such programs are often on-going, general search-and-report type programs conducted as part of a market research or brand reputation management service. In other cases, it’s the marketing or customer service departments that are tasked with this job. In an ideal world – and in an ideal corporate structure – every department shares information in real-time and makes data available across business silos seamlessly. Yeah, right.

Back in reality, we know this situation is not common; in fact, it’s most likely the opposite of what’s really occurring. The immediacy of social media content sharing and the consumer’s ability to drive that unedited content across multiple platforms demands a rethink of this organizational failure. At a minimum, businesses must add sentiment analysis to the pre-launch stage of every social media campaign they execute. Why?

Starbucks Customers Hijack Twitter Campaign

A recent Starbucks Twitter campaign asked followers to tweet their holiday cheer on Twitter using the hashtag “#SpreadTheCheer.” A great idea except for the fact that with the 700 locations in the UK, Starbucks is embroiled in a public relations battle based on the news that it paid only 8.6 million pounds in corporate taxes over the last 14 years. With other news reporting that Starbucks in the UK planned to cut paid lunch breaks and maternity leave benefits, the public sentiment around the brand was decidedly poor. The result was a public hijacking of the holiday-cheer #hashtag campaign in protest of its corporate policies.

Not only were these Tweets seen across Twitter , they were amplified on a giant screen over a Starbucks-sponsored ice rink at London’s Natural History museum.

If the marketing team responsible for the execution of the campaign had conducted a standard sentiment analysis check before it launched, they’d have realized the potential risk before it was too late. Of course, that would mean sentiment analysis checks were part of standard pre-launch methodologies for social media campaigns or that the PR team communicates regularly with the marketing team.

<Insert soundtrack of corporate hysterical laughing here>

As much as marketers wish to deny this fact, the business brand is now firmly dictated by the sentiments and opinions shared by the general public and consumers. Social media can provide a stellar platform to amplify positive brand sentiment but it can just as easily – and more likely – disrupt corporate-directed messaging with negative social commentary. Sentiment analysis can no longer be a nice-to-have program or even a PR-specific effort; sentiment analysis must be inserted as a mandatory tactic preceding any social media effort.

Not convinced? Ask the executives as Starbucks in the UK what they think. Still not convinced? Ask the executives at McDonald’s who had their own positive-story Twitter campaign (#McDStories) hijacked by negative consumer commentary. This is not a trend; it’s a reality.

Is it realistic for a marketing team to conduct sentiment analysis before every campaign? Will budgets be made available for such a strategy? Or will businesses continue to take the risk? Join the debate in the comments below.

Sam Fiorella
Feed Your Community, Not Your Ego



Join the Conversation

dbvickery 5pts

Ah, we are talking about a topic near-and-dear to my heart: monitoring and sentiment analysis. Interesting because I do think that some consumers are very opportunistic and will hold your brand reputation hostage with some of their trolling comments. Just another form of slacktivism at the safety of your keyboard.


Having said that, brands need to actively monitor what is being said about them - on news sites, social media channels, blogs, review sites (Yelp, Google Local, Amazon). Find and encourage the brand advocates, and do what you can to find and appease the brand detractors...at least give it the old college try by acknowledging all of them and resolving issues when you can proactively vs reactively.

prosperitygal 5pts

Oh Yes Sam, and it is really easy for us to trot out examples now to show clients why it is important.  We have chosen to be in social, that's a given now. The savvy person will ask "Do you want to be sitting here ( like Starbucks) because we did not take this extra step?  Do I leave that in the budget?"  When they know and feel they made an informed decision, they will appreciate you more too!


Life's answers - ask better questions.  When you come up with more Sam, ( I know how your brain thinks) make sure you share them with us here.  Merry Christmas.

samfiorella moderator 5pts

 @dbvickery Share from your experience with Pulse Analytics Brian...how feasible is it to run a sentiment analysis check preceding each campaign?

samfiorella moderator 5pts

 @prosperitygal I often blame marketers for being lazy but having clients myself, I know the budget and time restraints they impose (I want a video, it has to go viral tomorrow and it should cost less than $10,000 all in). Ack.


That being said, it's marketers that must take the lead and educate clients. It may make the sales cycle longer for SoMe campaigns but in the end, we'll earn better customers.


Merry Christmas

dbvickery 5pts

 @samfiorella Hmm, I've seen it measure results of existing campaigns and provide insight into new campaign considerations. For example, we have one screen where you can see your marketing spend on a swim-lane calendar view. On the same page and timeline, you can also see your corporate website traffic and volume of social mentions (as well as sentiment) on the same timeline. That one page is great for drawing correlations between campaigns and traffic/sentiment. 


A good monitoring and sentiment analysis solution also allows you to really slice/dice on any number of topics/dimensions. So you can also have better customer focus by creating topics for Customer Service, Website experience, Product Reliability, Competitor mentions...and even individual athletes/coaches or personalities.


I'll give you a couple case studies:


One company ran a TV ad for a major sporting event that coincided with the 10th anniversary of 9/11. The volume of mentions skyrocketed, and the sentiment seemed to be split between overwhelmingly positive (people cried and thought it was a great tribute) and overwhelmingly negative (people thought the company was cruelly optimistic). In this case, I do not think the company needed to change its message; however, all of these mentions were invitations to further engage the community. Be grateful and relate to the folks who saw it as a tribute. Be sympathetic with the ones with a negative reaction and help clarify the message reiterating it was a tribute to the survivors, first responders, and strength of America in recovering. Each mention is an invitation to further the relationship.


Second case study was a very healthy clothing brand. The sentiment analysis confirmed it was a respected brand for quality, style, good website experience, and even reasonably priced for "you get what you pay for". These were all topics that the company knew to track. However, Pulse indicated a very large number of negative mentions around the Concept "Free Shipping". Turns out, the company did not offer free shipping - and consumers were complaining about it. In some cases, the consumers refused to buy the product - on principle alone - because the company did not offer free shipping. SOLUTION: Run a campaign that offers free shipping! You are unlikely to see positive mentions of "yeah, free shipping"; however, you can measure how that particular concept fades into the background if the campaign is a success.


Conclusion, monitoring AND sentiment analysis finds the topics important to the consumer. If they love your product, tailor your campaigns to the product. If they love your service, focus on the softer side of providing a great customer experience. If they favor a player that may not even be in your original top-tier when marketing, change the message to focus on that player (these are the ones that typically start developing a cult following before becoming mainstream popular).


Wow, that got long-winded...

Show Buttons
Share On Facebook
Share On Twitter
Share On Google Plus
Share On Linkdin
Share On Stumbleupon
Hide Buttons