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Brands Gain a Sense of Humour, but are they playing with fire?

by admin on 17 October, 2012 at 12:06

It seems that some brands have adopted a different stance when it comes to commenting and answering back via social media, with a number of large brands hitting back with humour.

Although not always appropriate, it’s refreshing to see, that some brands have stopped behaving like generic spokespeople and more like people you’d want to hang out with – i.e., those who put a smile on your face.

Take Sainsbury’s for example. When receiving a negative comment from the popular blogger October Jones about the quality of one of its sandwiches (giving reference to one of wrestling’s greats Hulk Hogan). Sainsbury’s didn’t ignore him or issue a rehearsed corporate apology; instead they engaged with a playful and humorous exchange that led to a positive response. The tweet went on to get 140+ retweets and was favourited multiple times by twitter users.

Sainsbury’s Customer Service Response

Similar to-and-throws have taken place between the Twitter accounts of O2 and customers, Old Spice and Taco Bell, and one of our favourites, the humorous video response by Bodyform to a customer on Facebook; Albeit the last one, was most likely set-up for PR purposes.

There is a fine line between getting a response right and falling face down in a pile of…mud so to speak, but in the examples provided above, they seem to have gauged the situation just right and have been able to add a little humour to the situation.

Crest is a great example of this, who took the proverbial bull by the horns when comedian John Freiler engaged with the brand about its toothbrushes, or ‘deadly shivs’ as Freiler calls them. Crest did not just ignore the tweets or issue an apology, it engaged in a very clever playful exchange that led to a resolution (and a three year supply of toothpaste for Freiler).

Crest Twitter Response

Crest Twitter Response

Don’t get us wrong. It’s not always appropriate to respond in this way and there are many examples of social responses gone wrong, but with great risk, comes great gain, and that can certainly be seen from the examples we’ve mentioned.

And it’s not only customer responses that are getting the humorous responses; it seems brands are heckling each other too. A couple of months back we saw Old Spice have a nibble at Tacho Bell (no pun intended), who were quick to respond with a witty remark which resulted in a number of commentators backing the fast food chain. This was more of a playful exchange, but it did manage to encourage other brands in Ford and Redbull to join the action.

Wow nelly, hold your horses, we’re not saying for one minute go out there and take a pop at other brands, but what the example does show, is how the human element of a brand can be welcomed by customers and brands alike. Less rants more bants so to speak.

We know what you’re thinking, how the hell do these brands get away with these responses and who pushed that enter button? Well we have one more example for you and we’ve saved the best until last. Or so we think.

On receiving a quite lengthy negative comment from a gentleman called Richard, Bodyform went away and rather than issue a responses there and then, it created a humorous video.  Bodyform then went back to the Facebook message and commented with the following response:

“Hi Richard. We loved your post on our Facebook page. We are always grateful for input from our users, but your comment was particularly poignant. If Facebook had a “love” button, we’d have clicked it. But it doesn’t. So we’ve made you a video instead. Unfortunately Bodyform doesn’t have a CEO. But if it did she’d be called Caroline Williams. And she’d say this…”


The video is brilliant and whether it’s a PR stunt or genuine response it is well worth a watch.

We think it’s great to see brands approach social media with personality, and as long as there is a strategy in place, there is no reason a brands personality should be locked away. After all, it’s the personalities within the company that makes it successful.

We would love to hear your thoughts on brand personality within social media and hear if you think it can be adopted into an overall strategy or should be kept for controlled PR stunts. Also if you have any great examples of customer/brand response done well, we would love to hear about them.