This week’s focus in MMC6936, Social Media Ethics, is on reputation management. After discussing several cases in which brands’ reputations have been at stake on social media, we’ve been tasked with discovering and analyzing another example. In my research, I uncovered an incident that I don’t recall hearing about back in 2012. (Maybe I was living under a rock?) This KitchenAid Twitter whoopsie could have seriously damaged the company, but luckily the brand handled the situation swiftly and properly.
According to The Huffington Post, On October 4, 2012, a soon-to-be-former Kitchen Aid employee accidentally tweeted an offensive reference to President Obama’s deceased grandmother and an assumption on her viewpoints of the then-coming Obama Administration. The brand claimed this tweet was meant for the employee’s personal account:
KitchenAid deleted the tweet soon after, but not before it spread. According to the article, Cynthia Soledad, the head of the KitchenAid brand, identified herself publicly and took full responsibility for the mishap. She responded to the outrage by tweeting the following:
Soledad followed industry best practices reminiscent of the way The American Red Cross handled a similar incident the previous year. The swift deletion and sincere apologies (in the early morning hours) let the audience know that the brand was aware and listening. (This is preferable to deleting and denying!) Soledad also made a smart move in humanizing the brand by revealing her identity and showing remorse. She even made sure to “…personally apologize to President @BarackObama, his family and everyone on Twitter…” Additionally, she explained how such a comment appeared on the company’s profile and assured everyone that repercussion would ensue. “[The tweet] was carelessly sent in error by a member of our Twitter team who, needless to say, won’t be tweeting for us anymore.”
I think this situation couldn’t be handled more perfectly. Some may argue that The Red Cross did not fire the employee who tweeted about “#gettnslizzerd”, and so perhaps the KitchenAid social media team member should be spared termination as well. However, there is a big difference in discussing the legal indulgence of alcoholic beverages and tweeting a political opinion which, in very poor taste, bashes The President of The United States and disrespects the deceased. The latter is generally socially unacceptable, and the former is at least considered highly inappropriate for a brand which should remain neutral and politically correct at all times.
KitchenAid took an adverse situation and found a way to not only fix it, but also to make the company look good through humanization. Prior to reading this article, I thought of “KitchenAid” only as the name on my blender. From this point forward, I will instead connect it with a voice of care and integrity. Now I feel closer to the the brand, and therefore I assume others might too. I ultimately consider this a win for KitchenAid.