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Chapstick to Consumers: Kiss Our Chapped A$$
By: Shawn Paul Wood
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Check the picture. See it? That lovely shot of a woman hurling herself over a couch, appearing as if she was a stunt double in the "Lindsay Lohan" story. Quite naturally, she is wearing jeans so tight that you can tell what religion she is. And for what reason? Chapstick, of course.

The chapped-lip protector thought to get a little cheeky (see what I did there) over their latest ad, "Where Do Lost Chapsticks Go?" Once women got a gander at the anonymous, denim-clad behind, they swarmed Chapstick's Facebook fan page with tirades and vitriol, I presume. And so, according to the linked story from the San Francisco Chronicle, the PR kerfuffle occurred.

This company, whose ad hails "Be Heard" on the headline, decided it didn't care to hear anything from its consumers. Here's a nice summary: 

Obviously, this isn’t an earthshaking issue, but it is a striking glimpse into how corporations work behind the scenes to control their public message. And it’s disturbing to see that kind of manipulation operate under the guise of a public forum. The tactic is relevant to girls and women because so often with sexist products — movies that star only boys, the ubiquity of pink and Barbie dolls — the justification for the limited options out there is “we’re just giving the people what they want.” Clearly, there’s more going on in the background, involving complex and elaborate marketing strategies. If you’re claiming to give us what we want, you ought to at least listen to what we have to say.

The revolt on Suzy Chapstick gained steam with "ReelGirl" (and author of the SFGate post) Margot Magowan's blog post heard 'round the water cooler. Then, Business Insider chimed in. And so on. And so on. MEMO to Chapstick: You created the social medium for your customers. You put together that ASS-inine ad (did it again). So you should sit and read whatever everyone has to say. That's the "Social Media 101" definition of Social Media. But, the comments got personal and cutting and hurt your little feelers, so you deleted them all of them.

You see, public relations is dealing with the positive and the negative. Chapstick had a chance to embrace its customers and pucker up. But then it didn't it and gave those customers all the Heisman. You know, kinda like Netflix, only without...well no, just like them. Now, Chapstick is in full crisis communications mode. The story is national. Advertising and marketing communications folks are all over this ballyhoo. And now, Chapstick is sitting around their scented conference table trying to spell "C-r-i-t-i-c-i-s-m."

The point is, Chapstick encouraged everyone that uses its product to use social media to talk to them, and when the customers began talking (and talking and talking), they were tuned out by the major-domos in the corner office who couldn't take the public flogging. Customers talk back — just as they are asked — and are instantly ignored and treated like they were never there. Not a good message to deliver in this economy. In any economy. 

Classy. To wit, I know where I'd like to stick my chapstick. Just sayin'.

   

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About the Author
Shawn Paul Wood is a hack-turned-flack with more than 20 years of collective journalism, copywriting and marketing communications experience. Shawn Paul is founder of Woodworks Communications in Dallas, Texas. If you need him, ping him here or follow him on Twitter @ShawnPaulWood
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