Well Played, Penney

It’s been a while since my last post. I know that successful blogging depends on frequent posts, but it also depends on good content, and I had nothing good to write about. Thankfully, the Super Bowl happened, giving me plenty of advertising to analyze. There was one ad that really stood out to me. It wasn’t on TV. It was on Twitter.

Take it away, JC Penney:


I love a good Twitter meltdown. This was shaping up to be a Burger King-style disaster. And like the Burger King hacking, a few people suspected that it was just a stunt. I believe the Burger King fiasco was real because the tweets dropped the f-word and the n-word more than once.  No company would risk PR suicide that way. This time around, I had a feeling that the skeptics were right. JC Penney kept its tweets clean. It also timed them well. The first one was during the first quarter and the second was close enough to halftime without being so close that people would be more likely to be watching the halftime show than paying attention to Twitter.

That doesn’t mean I didn’t want to believe that the tweets were the product of a hacker or a drunken social media manager. The reaction from the Twitterverse was too entertaining, with lots of tweets advising JC Penney to stick to water for the rest of the game or to get a designated driver. Even other brands took the opportunity to come up with clever responses.


Hamburger Helper sent a tweet as well, although I can no longer find it. It said something along the lines of, “@JCPenney Gloves are great, but not for tweeting.” It came closer to the truth than the tweeter probably realized. This is what happened next:


Ta da! It was all about the mittens. JC Penney also must have had a deal with Snickers, because it responded to its “You’re not you” tweet with a photo that looks too professional to have been taken on the spot:


I may have had my doubts, but I was still disappointed to learn that the tweets were definitely fake. I couldn’t decide whether the stunt was cheap or brilliant. Yet the more I thought about it, the more I leaned toward the “brilliant” side. It wasn’t the first time a brand faked a Twitter disaster. BET and MTV staged a Twitter “feud” just after the Burger King hacking. No one believed that one, though, because BET and MTV are both owned by Viacom and therefore are not rivals. JC Penney was more believable because it’s not doing so well as a company and not known for doing anything “edgy” marketing-wise. It was easy to think that the people in charge didn’t care about their social media presence enough to notice what was happening. Evidently, they do care. And it paid off. #JCPenney wasn’t a top trend nationally (at least not that I saw), but it did get a lot of attention considering it was competing with tweets about the TV ads. Not all the feedback was good, but a lot of people had fun with it.

This may be the beginning of many Super Bowl Twitter stunts. Non-sponsored tweets technically don’t cost anything, so companies that may not be able to afford big-budget TV spots can still use Twitter to engage people with their brands and get some press during the game. This year, every brand wanted to top Oreo’s tweet during last year’s Super Bowl blackout. JC Penney proved to be a worthy challenger by taking Oreo’s skillful timing and adding the fun of a Twitter disaster.  On the downside, other brands may now be tempted to mimic JC Penney’s strategy, but a joke is never as funny the second time around. That is, unless the joker finds a way to improve it. We’ll just have to wait to see what happens next.


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