Australia: Using humour to boost your brand

Recently, corporate giant Woolworths decided to implement some humour into a social media response to a customer's post about purchasing spaghetti.

Facebook user Jamie McGloin wrote a tongue in cheek post on Woolworths' Facebook page about his spaghetti purchase, to the tune of rapper Eminem's lyrics. Woolworths decided to respond with an equally funny post featuring more Eminem lyrics.

The posts quickly went viral with many Woolworths followers jumping on board and hailing the supermarket's response as hilarious. Hashtags such as #WooliesIsFresher followed, in addition to responses including "...your comments have made me decide to never shop at Coles again..." and "we should probably shop at woolies now".

People were talking about it online – in a positive way - and the social media spin was deemed a huge success for Woolworths.

In my opinion, it was a bold move by Woolworths but a move that worked in its favour. Woolworths chose reasonably "family friendly" lyrics and made them directly relevant to the topic at hand – spaghetti. It could have gone horribly wrong if Woolworths chose to use the more explicit content often associated with Eminem songs. But it seems the response was carefully thought out and planned by Woolworths who, in turn, received a positive response and a huge boost to their brand. A boost which Woolworths probably needed given their social media campaign fail around Anzac Day.

This was a great example of a corporate giant showing its empathetic and "human" side. Woolworths proved that at the end of the day they too are people like you and me. They did this by stepping out of the box containing generic social media responses posted by companies, and it worked brilliantly in their favour.

But, and there is always a but – there is a fine line between using humour to boost your brand and unintentionally insulting your followers causing an influx of complaints.

I've seen many brands trying to inject humour into their social media posts only for it to backfire and, in turn, lose a mass amount followers and leaving behind a huge negative backlash to deal with.

Let's take US Airways for example – last year a US Airways customer tweeted about the delay on a particular flight. US Airways decided to respond with "We welcome feedback, Elle. If your travel is complete, you can detail it here for review and follow up", followed by a link to an extraordinarily graphic picture (which I won't include here). There is no doubt that someone at US Airways thought it would be funny to tweet that response but it wasn't. The tweet was removed an hour later – but it was far too late, the damage to the brand was done.

Just because something is funny to you, it doesn't mean it will go down well with your followers – it has to be carefully thought out and planned. If not, you risk negative backlash seriously harming your brand (and profits/sales), complaints via social media or even complaints to the relevant authorities.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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