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The New York Times recently ran an article about a blogger initiative that backfired. “Bloggers Don’t Follow the Script, to ConAgra’s Chagrin”, by Andrew Adam Newman, describes how a PR firm invited select food bloggers to an intimate evening to enjoy a meal prepared by a TV celebrity chef. To their surprise – or rather distaste – the bloggers were duped and fed lasagne and dessert prepared by a frozen food manufacturer.

Hidden cameras were supposed to capture genuine surprise and delight as the bloggers ate their sumptuous meal, only to find out that it wasn’t fresh, but frozen. Think Pizza Hut ad.

The fallout? Not good. One of the bloggers, Chubby Chinese Girl, sums it up: “I’m NOT their target consumer and they were totally off by thinking I would buy or promote their highly processed frozen foods after tricking me to taste it”. What follows illustrates how critically important it is to understand your target market and your influencers before embarking on a social media campaign. 

Chubby Chinese Girl’s blog post about the evening generated 47 comments, many from fellow food bloggers, potentially turning more people away from the frozen food company. But the article from the New York Times generated an avalanche of chatter, close to 3,000 comments over 1 week, as shown here in this brief Radian6 overview:

Radian6 Graph -- Comment Quantity One-Week Trend

Discussions spanned several platforms with Twitter dominating. Also included were forums, Facebook, blogs and mainstream news. Voices were heard from people in over 14 countries. And the tag cloud reveals the overall negative sentiment of these conversations.

Radian6 Graph -- Media Type by Comment Quantity


Radian6 -- Comment Tag Cloud

Clearly the first offense was trying to deceive a captive audience (literally!). Building credibility and trust with customers begins with honest, transparent communications. The second offense was missing the target market – had they instead promoted a fun tasting evening and invited bloggers passionate about making fast and easy meals or managing busy households, the outcome may have been different.