If you weren’t on Twitter last night, you missed what appeared to be a drunk JC Penny live tweeting the Super Bowl.
Who kkmew theis was ghiong tob e a baweball ghamle. #lowsscorinh 5_0
— JCPenney (@jcpenney) February 2, 2014
Toughdown Seadawks!! Is sSeattle going toa runaway wit h this???
— JCPenney (@jcpenney) February 3, 2014
Like thousands of others, I replied to them during the game.
— Joseph McKeating (@JosifMcK) February 3, 2014
It turned out to be a “we were tweeting with mittens on” campaign, because the game was supposed to be colder than it was.
The main reason The Washington Post called this “pure brilliance” and other outlets applauded them was because it momentarily boosted their Twitter activity. Compared to their usual 20 retweets, JC Penny’s two “drunk tweets” were retweeted 41,000 times during the game. If you consider that brilliant or effective, you must also embrace the notion that all publicity is good publicity, which I disagree with.
Here is what an overwhelming majority of those 41,000 retweets looked liked:
Even though JC Penny posted a photo of mittens before the game saying “We’re ready for the big game no matter the temp. Staying warm thanks to #TeamUSA mittens!”, most of the people who saw their poorly typed tweets didn’t see it. And they weren’t supposed to, because JC Penny’s goal was to look like they were drunk, then say “Just kidding! We were wearing mittens.”
Whereas Esurance saw an opportunity to save 30% by purchasing ad space after the game and give that money back to their customers, something that did fit brilliantly into their marketing strategy, there was a huge disconnect in JC Penny’s plan. There was brand value in what Esurance did, and all day Twitter has been buzzing with their #EsuranceSave30 campaign. It was the value in what they did that drove activity. If you have to drive activity by saying “Let’s get people to interact with our brand by convincing them that the person handling our account is drunk, then, once it’s all over, tell them that we were wearing mittens,” how does that enhance your brand? And where are the parallels, like the “we save 30%, you save 30%” message Esurance found?
I didn’t think JC Penny’s Twitter hoax was a disaster, but I don’t think it was creative and I certainly don’t think they deserve to be praised for it. A brief spike in Twitter activity doesn’t have any inherent value. You have to ask why the spike occurs. In this case, unlike the case of Esurance, it’s unlikely to drive sales or have any positive, lasting impact.