Campbell Soup brand SpaghettiOs has a rather quiet Twitter account. It has just 11,000 followers and its typical tweet gets little, if any reaction. Not surprising considering it posts just a few times a week and favors close-up shots of the product in action.
That all changed Friday night when SpaghettiOs decided to commemorate the attack on Pearl Harbor by tweeting an image of its mascot, Mr. O, holding an American flag, grinning maniacally and assuming a rather defiant left-arm akimbo stance. There is, of course, a hashtag involved.
This did not go over well, not at all. Thousands of retweets later, the canned pasta brand got an earful on its insensitivity — perhaps crassness is a better term — at glomming onto the day World War II reached America’s shores and 2,402 Americans were killed. Many bad brand tweets are simple human lapses, but this one was clearly planned in advance. It’s reminiscent of AT&T’s product-placement Twin Towers tweet to commemorate 9/11.
And like AT&T, SpaghettiOs has been roundly lambasted. The upsides is 4,000 retweets later, people are actually talking about SpaghettiOs. In fact, some are following the brand’s lead and inserting the pasta mascot into historical events.
It is possible this was a genius Twitter trolling strategy on behalf of Campbell. (UPDATE: Campbell has removed the tweet. A rep told Digiday, “We apologize for our recent Tweet as we meant no harm and felt it was best to remove it.”) These things tend to attract gawkers, much like car accidents. Sadly, the surge in followers will probably not be for the long term.
Perhaps more amazingly, assuming it is not part of a brilliant trolling strategy, 13 hours later the tweet still stands, as defiant as the pose Mr. O struck. It is also destined to enter the pantheon of bad brand tweets, made in the name of real-time marketing and the desperate need to be relevant.
It also marks the close to a rocky week for Campbell. It had to deal with a brand hoax earlier in the week, when someone set up a fake Twitter account for its Pace Foods salsa brand in order to have an insane direct-message conversation. With SpaghettiOs, Campbell is taking the sensible route and simply apologizing for screwing up.