By Mira Kuhar
In the midst of mixed feelings about their company following the uproar of the “Blackfish” documentary, SeaWorld decided that creating some transparency in their company would help their brand’s image. Their idea of a solution came at the end of last March when they launched their “#AskSeaWorld” campaign.
The company spent millions on this campaign that consisted of a simple hashtag: #AskSeaWorld. SeaWorld encouraged consumers to Tweet them questions from all social media platforms using the tag in the hopes that they could show consumers that orcas live just as long in captivity as they do in the wild (NY Post). Sea World’s plan was to compile the questions onto their Sea World Cares site for public consumption (CNN). The outcome of this idea, however, didn’t go over like they had hoped.
People started immediately responding to the campaign and spreading the hashtag, however it was not necessarily done in a positive light. Angry consumers took this as an opportunity to grill the company on the well being of their animals. They also brought up issues with the idea of the park and many other overall negative comments about the way the company is ran (Ad Week).
At first, SeaWorld ignored the hashtag misusers and proceeded with the campaign as they hoped it would turn out. However eventually, the company got frustrated with how it was playing out, and began to post comments on their Twitter warding off those not taking it seriously. Some these comments included Tweets such as how they had “a lot of trolls and bots to sort through” and how “jacking hashtags is so 2014” (Huffington Post).
As a result of this entire campaign, and especially calling out the trolls and bots that were taking over the hashtag, SeaWorld garnered even more negative attention to themselves (Social Media Week). Their hope of taking transparency and turning it into a positive effort failed, just like it has for many companies. I think that this is exactly why it is a social fail; when you give consumers the right to openly ask questions on a public forum during a negative time, it’ll only make the problem worse.
In my opinion, there are a few things SeaWorld could have changed to make this campaign more beneficial to their company. First, giving consumers full reign to ask whatever they want in a public forum was the wrong approach. When your company is already seen in a negative light, this can only make the problem worse by publicizing the issues. Instead of conducting this on social media, they should have created a private forum to submit these questions. This would have taken away the public nature of the questions and kept the negative comments from snowballing.
Another thing they could have done was created a campaign centered around the idea of people having fun at SeaWorld. The problem with their brand is the image that people have of it. Having consumers post pictures of themselves having fun at SeaWorld over the years, and really publicizing the photos that show healthy, happy animals could have been a better approach to get people to see the park in a better light.
Overall, this campaign was a complete Social Fail, and other companies should use this case study as an example of what not to do in a time of crisis. Fixing a brand’s image isn’t always easy, but when it’s done in a well thought out way, it could help change consumers opinions a little bit at a time.
#AskSeaWorld Reputation Campaign Fails Miserably. (n.d.). Retrieved February 08, 2016, from http://www.adweek.com/prnewser/askseaworld-reputation-campaign-fails-miserably/111686
‘Ask SeaWorld’ campaign fails to stop attendance from sinking. (2015). Retrieved February 08, 2016, from http://nypost.com/2015/08/06/new-ad-campaign-fails-to-stop-seaworlds-sinking-attendance/
‘Ask SeaWorld’ marketing campaign backfires. Retrieved February 08, 2016, from http://money.cnn.com/2015/03/27/news/companies/ask-seaworld-twitter/
Sola, K. (n.d.). #AskSeaWorld Twitter Campaign Pretty Much Goes How You’d Expect. Retrieved February 08, 2016, from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/03/27/seaworld-twitter-fail_n_6950902.html
The Top 10 Most Embarrassing Social Media Fails From 2015 – Social Media Week. (2016). Retrieved February 08, 2016, from http://socialmediaweek.org/blog/2016/01/most-embarrasing-social-media-fails-2015/