Online Brand Management: How a Nicole Arbour Tweet Almost Spoiled a Food Brand

I love to see big brands engaging their customers via social media. It makes them seem friendly and approachable, and sets them apart from their competitors. Every once in awhile though, I see a brand doing something on social media that, as a brand management professional, makes me cringe.

Here’s an example of a tweet gone (almost horribly) wrong for Hero Burgers.

First of all, Who is Nicole Arbour?

Youtube comedian Nicole Arbour has been in the news recently, for a video she posted entitled “Dear Fat People”. In the 6 minute long rant, she makes jokes about obesity and attempts to use humor to tell overweight people that they need to lose weight. Although some people find the video extremely funny and entertaining, many people find it mean and hateful and it has mostly received harsh criticism and backlash. Do a quick search on twitter for the hashtag #nicolearbour to get a good idea of the general consensus.

And Nicole isn’t apologizing either. She claims she’s actually trying to HELP overweight people and that ‘fat shaming’ isn’t actually a real thing.

Note: I’m not going to link directly to the video here, so if you want to see it you’ll have to Google it and decide for yourself what her motives were.

Enter Unsuspecting Brand

Given that Nicole is now forever associated with fat shaming, imagine my surprise when I saw the following tweet from a Canadian FOOD MANUFACTURER in Toronto:

Nicole Arbour eating a hamburger
An unsuspecting food brand refers to known fat shaming comedian as their hero.

Oh No They Didn’t

After reading it a few times, I was speechless, and a bit miffed. Your “hero”? Was this brand REALLY using their twitter account to refer to a notorious fat shamer as their hero while she shoves their food product into her mouth?? This question (and a few others) immediately popped into my head. Just what was @HeroBurgers trying to pull by supporting this person?

So I decided to find out by tweeting them…

Their response was somewhat believable (to me) because I know social media can be difficult for a brand to manage. Still, knowing that some brands purposely try to capitalize on current news events, I decided to press a little further:

It was then that I realized that this brand didn’t have a CLUE who Nicole Arbour was, that their tweet had all been an unfortunate coincidence, and that somebody obviously didn’t do their homework. Nicole had simply tweeted a picture to enter their #HeroOfTheWeek contest at one point, and they just happened to select her to win, not knowing about her recent fat shaming scandal.

Mistakes do indeed happen. Though a quick Google of the winner’s name would have been sufficient to avoid this whole situation. Unfortunately, and such is the risk when your social media team isn’t experienced, other people were starting to notice their mistake as well:

It was at this point that I decided to move the conversation to a private message where I gave them some advice on how to handle their situation. I advised them to apologize, retract their tweet and hold a twitter contest where the winner gets the prize that WOULD have been awarded to Nicole Arbour. I’m happy to see that they took my advice seriously:

What brands can learn from this:

  • Never (ever!) hit send/publish/update or tweet without doing your research first (no matter HOW insignificant you believe your content to be).
  • If your brand messes up, own it, and then make it right.
  • Your brand’s online reputation is too important, and it’s way to easy to make mistakes, to be in the hands of someone with little or no experience.

Big thank you to @HeroBurgers for readily accepting my help and then offering to send me some free eats. Best of luck to you guys.