When Shock Marketing Flops: “Chinese Virus Special”
Today’s digital media consumers are as socially conscious and politically active as they have ever been. This reality adds an additional layer of complexity to designing and maintaining a brand’s social media image. Modern digital media gives the average citizen a voice, as well as the opportunity to hear the voice of others. In addition, it gives the average consumer an opportunity to listen, understand, learn, engage, and build relationships with people they’ve never meet in person. Consumers log onto a shared digital space to engage with strangers and neighbors, friend and foe, alike.
However, as more digital citizens login from home due to the Pandemic, they tend to participate in larger, global conversations. It’s not always a polite discussion. Oftentimes, things are said that “just don’t sit well” with others. These types of conversations are especially unpleasant. However, they can be necessary for those who see the need to work things out as a people moving towards “A More Perfect Union”.
What Is A Conscious Consumer And Why Does it Matter?
Consumers know they have a lot of power. They have buying power and knowledge at their fingertips. Conscious consumers are consumers who, understanding there are almost limitless brands, products, services, and companies to support, express support voluntarily and consciously.
The role of the conscious consumer became clear when, last week, Elk Grove Business “Umai Bar & Grill” was graffitied with anti-Asian hate speech. Before the hate barely had time to dry on the glass and spread its intended message of fear and intimidation, conscious consumers showed up and said “not in our community”. They showed up financially to place take orders, purchased cleaning supplies, and find a pressure washer to help their neighbor right away.
“Shockvertising” & “Shock” Marketing
More and more it seems we are met with marketing on social media. Everyone is out to sell something, it seems. From the local winery to your Aunt Susie with her essential oils. Our social media feeds are saturated with sales pitches. As a result, many digital media consumers are no longer paying attention to traditional marketing methods. Enter “Shockvertising”. This is a type of advertising that attracts attention by shocking its audience on purpose.
It is this intersection of “conscious-minded buyer” with a “need for a product or service” that creates this marketing opportunity. For example, the post below by Hillenbrand Framhus Brewery located in Newcastle, CA, owned and operated by successful entrepreneur Patric Hillenbrand. The product sold here is a truly amazing beer. According to its many reviewers, it is a beer whose recipe has been crafted and refined by industry experts. Its polished website showcases a beautiful bucolic countryside setting painstakingly cultivated for the consumer. However, this particular post was removed from Facebook by the Page owner due to its use of the shock phrase “Chinese Virus Special”. Elk Grove Tribune readers, upset over the shocking language used, sent us numerous screenshots.
Handling the “Apology” With Grace Goes A Long Way in Rebuilding Trust
Many in the Asian American community did regard the ‘Chinese Virus’ as a racist or xenophobic term for Coronavirus. When faced with this type of a social media marketing mishap, the marketing content creator has a few choices. Own the mistake and engage with the harmed group, learn from the experience and do better in the future, or go on the defensive.
Experts recommend a particular response. First, realize there’s a very valid reason for consumers no to trust your intent. Second, the nature of implicit bias is that it’s not ALWAYS conscious, so be open to those conversations. Apologies that fail to acknowledge intent, focusing instead on justifications or excuses, are not apologies. Instead of focusing on confusion and misunderstanding, meet the high-standards of recognition and atonement.
“Welcome to a little life lesson, freedom of speech doesn’t exempt you from the consequences of your words.”- D. Beers (Facebook user who commented on the issue, on the company’s social media apology)
“You definitely aren’t upset it hurt the Asian community. You intended to do so or at least we’re trying to be as classless as, ( my guess) your idol, Donald Trump. Own what you say. Please don’t pretend you didn’t know that After Trump used the term Chinese virus, there were attacks and harassment against the Asian community. If you want you to have freedom of speech then accept the fact that there are consequences. There are many racist and right-wing extremists in placer county so you’ll enjoy yourselves but you have alienated a large amount of clients” -D. Palozzolo