Shell’s “Let’s Go” Campaign Hoax Fools Many, Spreads Fast, Stains Their Reputation
Every company’s worst PR, social media and trademark nightmare seems to be a harsh reality for Shell right now. The brand has been the target of a complex yet brilliant attack on behalf of activist group Greenpeace and the Yes Lab, they created a fake campaign against Shell and it went viral. The hoax campaign included a genuinely looking website – www.arcticready.com - complete with Shell colors and logos, and in it they encouraged visitors to submit suggestions for their next campaign and promote drilling in the Arctic. At the same time, a video was being released of an apparent Shell gala event gone wrong; in it a model oil rig ‘malfunctions’ and sprays oil on shocked attendees while security personnel tries to block the person recording the scene.
It didn’t take long before these spoof user-generated ads and video went viral and spread on every single social media site, hitting some 500,000 views in 24 hours on YouTube and trending the hashtag #ShellFAIL. Some of the most popular ads touched sensitive subjects such as oil spills and global warming with catch phrases such as “You can’t run your SUV on ‘cute’” and “Some say catastrophe, we say opportunity”. Another aspect of the hoax included a Twitter account @ShellIsPrepared which currently has 3,060 followers and is discouraging, almost begging, people from retweeting the offensive posts - further adding to the drama.
WE’RE FLATTERED BY THE ATTENTION BUT PLEASE STOP. We’d hate to get the #Shell legal team involved.
— Social Media Team (@ShellisPrepared) July 18, 2012
If things weren’t bad enough already, the press was all over the story and they were holding Shell responsible for what they thought was a huge “social media strategy fail”. Millions fell for the stunt and it succeeded in raising awareness of the dangers of drilling in the fragile arctic environment. Greenpeace and Yes Lab eventually released a blog post and video taking full responsibility for the campaign.
What has Shell done to minimize the impact on their reputation?
Shell has been placed in a tight and risky position, as any official response would probably draw more attention towards the fake campaign. They didn’t release an official statement to further separate themselves from the campaign until June 19th, two weeks after the Arctic Ready website got unveiled.
The Internet has given everyone a microphone and what you say is now starting to be considered and defended as “free speech”; laws and regulations surrounding this topic are foggy and traditional trademark law will not always apply online.
The Arctic Ready website and fake @ShellIsPrepared accounts are still active, and while we are hoping that Shell’s PR team is working frantically to take action and remove them, they are still attracting traffic and new visitors share the content thinking it is real.
What if YOUR brand got brandjacked?
We’ve mentioned before that Brand Abuse can happen in any industry and we have also blogged about setting up Online Reputation Management Plans and Social Media Policies and those two tools are great when combined when you have a social media monitoring tool such as BrandProtect’s SMART Advantage to identify threats before they turn into PR disasters.
In most cases, this unwanted attention can be turned into a positive exposure for your brand if properly analyzed and an appropriate response strategy is implemented. Honesty can go a long way in social media responses and the feedback you receive from customers can help you better shape your current company goals. Check out these 3 examples of companies using Twitter to resolve customer service problems.
It is important that your company recognizes the value of social media conversations and the magnitude of customer’s voice. Deleting negative tweets or comments or shifting the blame to a third party will only smudge your reputation even further. Be proactive and set up a contingency plan before disaster strikes.
Do you consider brandjacking a real threat? Do you think Shell will have a hard time bouncing back? Let us know!
[img source: www.arcticready.com]