What lessons are there to be learned from Appletiser’s Twitter faux pas?

By Given Radingwana on 8 June, 2015

As part of the nationwide Women Crush Wednesday hashtag movement (whereby guys and girls post a picture of their female crush or people they look up to), Appletiser, the soft drink company (on Wednesday, 27 May) posted a controversial image as part of its Twitter marketing strategy. It slowly stewed until it started trending on social media. The post consisted of a black woman and a white woman sharing what seems like a happy moment with the caption “Every brunette needs a blonde best friend. Retweet if you couldn’t live without your bestie!” then followed by the Hashtag “#WomanCrushWednesday”

The campaign trended on Sunday, 7 June as South Africans, black and white, took to twitter to complain about the post, some saying the it was offensive, racist and others saying it was whitewashing the black woman by calling her a “brunette”. Even though Appletiser sincerely apologized for the post:

There are still lessons to be learnt from it:

Make the message clear to your audience

To make your campaign message clear to your audience, you first need to fully understand your audience, their thinking patterns and what they respond to. In a country that is still heavily affected by race or racially motivated commentary, it was not wise for Appletiser to play along that fine line between appropriate and inappropriate racial commentary. The message in the advertisement came across as racist or racially inappropriate as most of its audience (mostly black) did not understand why the ‘brunette’ needed the ‘blonde’ friend and not the other way around (either way, it would’ve still been racially inappropriate). Even though other companies such as Cell C and Nando’s may have played along political lines in the past, almost all companies stay clear of racial and gender-based commentary (As Appletiser tried and got burned for it).

Most (myself included), still do not understand the true message behind the Appletiser advert/post as well as how the post ties into the company and its products, which brings me to my second lesson.

The message, however quirky or playful, needs to relate to your company

The message in the tweet had no relation to the Appletiser brand or its products (Unless of course the message it tried to portray was that Appletiser soft drinks bring diverse people together). Whatever digital marketing campaign or advert needs to marry into your core brand (be it products and/or services) to your company’s core values. If the campaign message has no relation to your company or is difficult for the man on the street to understand (target audience) then you are sadly wasting your time and money.

The bad press from this post could potentially harm the company’s brand image which could ripple into its brand loyalty. Companies (although it ties into building a relationship with your target audience mentioned in my previous article) need to understand that they cannot manage their social media platforms the same way individuals do. It is totally acceptable for an individual to make a mistake and get away with it whereas this is a different story for companies as this will affect their audience/followers and could potentially damage or dent the company’s image.


Originally published at memeburn.com by Given Radingwana on June 8, 2015.

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