Why ChapStick’s bad PR policy matters

Yesterday,  Jezebel and Business Insider posted about ChapStick’s bad PR policy to delete negative feedback about its ad from its Facebook page– an especially questionable practice by ChapStick when its ad copy reads: “Be Heard” and follows with a Facebook page address.

As Jezebel wrote, ChapStick’s practice of deleting negative feedback is not officially censorship:

“Chapstick has no obligation to provide a public forum, and users are free to take their complaints elsewhere, as they have done.”

Last I looked, it appears ChapStick is now deleting the blatantly sexist comments as well, which I guess could be considered progress. But again, the ad implies a public forum. Furthermore, ironically, leaving up the sexist comments about the woman’s ass show that the picture is not just an innocent snapshot of a woman looking for ChapStick, that others besides crazy feminists bloggers find the ad objectifying, though obviously they’re into the objectification.

Jezebel writes:

What Chapstick is guilty of is really bad PR. When Dr. Pepper issued a much more objectionable ad, at least they allowed customers to sound off about it on their Facebook page. By deleting negative comments, Chapstick is sending the message that they can’t handle criticism. And especially if you’re encouraging people to use social media to talk about your brand, that’s a stupid message to send.

Business Insider agrees:

Social media is supposed to be a way to communicate with your customers — when you shut that channel down simply because they disagree with you, you totally negate the point of having it in the first place.

Deleting those comments served no purpose for Chapstick but to cause itself PR problems. It’s the Internet — even if you delete something, it’ll appear somewhere, somehow. True to form, many of the comments that Chapstick deleted were compiled by protesters on a new Facebook page (the screenshots show that most were void of profanity and civil).

What should Chapstick have done?

Brands like Chapstick have to learn to accept the negative with the positive, especially in a world with social media. By simply opening a dialogue with those angered and listening to their complaint, this could’ve been avoided. And the folks at Chapstick would’ve generated some goodwill, showing that they actually give a crap about what people think.

But no. They did the exact opposite, giving the perception that the brand doesn’t care.

One follower of the Butt Seriously, Chapstick FB page (created by Reel Girl for those deleted from ChapStick’s page) had a great suggestion that ChapStick show women in its ads being powerful and resourceful, for example lifting up the couch and finding the ChapStick there.

Obviously, this isn’t an earthshaking issue, but it is a striking glimpse into how corporations work behind the scenes to control their public message. And it’s disturbing to see that kind of manipulation operate under the guise of a public forum. The tactic is relevant to girls and women because so often with sexist products– movies that star only boys, the ubiquity of pink and Barbie dolls– the justification for the limited options out there is “we’re just giving the people what they want.” Clearly, there’s more going on in the background involving complex and elaborate marketing strategies. If you’re claiming to give us what we want, you ought to at least listen to what we have to say first.

Through this whole experience, I have learned how to spell ChapStick correctly.

Leave a Reply