Twitter case study: Waitrose tweet contest- PR disaster or triumph?

16/01/2013

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A Twitter campaign from Waitrose became the subject of ridicule during September 2012, once again sparking the debate as to whether there’s ‘no such thing as bad publicity’ on social media. The supermarket invited Twitter customers to finish the sentence ‘I shop at Waitrose because…’, asking them to include the hashtag “#WaitroseReasons”. Most of the tweets made fun of Waitrose’s prices and its upmarket image. This case study examines the risks and rewards of running hashtag-based social media campaigns...

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Brand: Waitrose | Country: UK | Sector: Retail, Supermarket | Format: Twitter, social media

The John Lewis owned firm invited Twitter customers to finish the sentence ‘I shop at Waitrose because…’, asking them to include the hashtag “#WaitroseReasons”.

Within hours the hashtag was being mocked on the social network. Two Twitter posts ridiculed Waitrose by saying that the upmarket shop was the best place to pick up unicorn food and 24ct gold thread toilet paper.

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One Twitter post read, “I shop at Waitrose because it makes me feel important and I absolutely detest being surrounded by poor people. I also shop at Waitrose because I was once in the Holloway Road branch and heard a dad say ‘Put the papaya down, Orlando!’”

The latter tweet has since got its own hashtag and T-Shirt campaign.

Most of the tweets made fun of Waitrose’s prices, with one saying, “I shop at Waitrose because I think food must automatically be better if it costs three times as much.”

There were some tweets where the supermarket garnered some praise and some genuine comments such as, “Because wine is arranged on the shelves by region rather than colour.” were also seen.

In response, Waitrose issued a statement with a straight yet stern disposition, “Thanks for all the genuine and funny #WaitroseReasons tweets. We always like to hear what you think and enjoyed reading most of them.”

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Bad publicity or savvy marketing?

While being ridiculed, the Waitrose campaign also earned widespread coverage in national media outlets , leading many to suggest the campaign proved a very cost-effective investment (it cost nothing) which enforced its upmarket image, without condoning the 'snobbery' associated with the negative comments.

As reports suggest that Waitrose’s “botched” Twitter campaign has made the brand a “laughing stock”, Jason Woodford, CEO of digital marketing agency SiteVisibility, gives the campaign a ten out of ten and suggests this has reinforced Waitrose’s brand values of quality and excellent service as a key point of differentiation from the other grocery chains.

Jason Woodford comments: “The “botched” Twitter campaign which has made Waitrose a “laughing stock” gets my full backing and a ten out of ten from me. Have we become that naïve to believe that one of our most respected supermarket chains wasn’t both prepared nor expecting such comments which - and let’s choose this phrase carefully – reinforced its upmarket image. We are talking about one of our largest brands who I suspect fully appreciates who its clientele is and how they, and indeed the regulars of other supermarket chains, behave on social networking websites.

“In fact, any elements of “class bashing” has probably increased the ‘snob’ value of shopping at Waitrose amongst its target audience. This was a very clever marketing ploy from Waitrose and it has reinforced its brand values of quality and reliably excellent service as a key point of differentiation from the other grocery chains. Their marketing team and management has managed to reflect a personality as well by recognising the humorous elements of both their campaign and some of the responses its encouraged. I think they should give themselves a pat on the back. He who laughs last, laughs loudest.”

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