Steffan Aquarone

Steff is a film producer and technology entrepreneur who speaks internationally on innovation, entrepreneurship and digital marketing

Charming naivety: what Nick Clegg and Waitrose have in common

This week Waitrose did something on social media that many brands will recognise: they created a hashtag that trended because of sarcastic responses. #waitrosereasons asked people why they shopped at Waitrose, with top results including:

@amoozbouche: I shop at Waitrose because I once heard a dad say ‘Put the papaya down, Orlando.’

@buntygusset: I shop at Waitrose because Boden don’t do veg


@welshben: I shop at Waitrose because I once heard a 6yr old boy in the shop say “Daddy does Lego have a ‘t’ at the end, like Merlot?”

If like me you spend a good deal of time watching brands try to suppress or moderate conversations on social media, you might have wondered what happened to all the back-tracking. Where was the PR department’s defensive post “clarifying [their] intentions”? What about the social media rookie who loses their patience and slugs one back at a troll?

I know from past experience that Waitrose are hot on digital and it could be they simply dealt with an unexpected reaction in an exemplary way. But something makes me think they knew the reaction to such a naive question would be sarcastic – and it might even have been their intention all along. All publicity is, after all, good publicity and it’s not like theirs was about a leaked corporate song or the disturbing manipulation of children’s voices. I’m working with John Lewis (of which Waitrose is a part) again in a few weeks and it’ll be top of my list of things to try and find out.

My suspicion would probably have ended there had it not been for the latest missive from our Dear Leader. A colleague and I conferred two years ago that the best thing Nick Clegg could do was make a “big, open” apology for breaking the tuition fees promise. Now he’s done it, on video, and it was modified and auto-tuned within 24 hours. Again, where were the cease and desists, the clumsy hacks mouthing off about the “plebs”? Has the Liberal Democrat party suddenly learned that the tone of voice a brand needs on the social web is a much more frank, honest and self-critical one? Maybe. But perhaps they intended it to happen all along. Within hours of The Poke publishing it, Clegg’s office had given permission for it to be released for charity and it’s already at number 63 in the iTunes chart.

Perhaps we’re entering into a new fad of charming naïvety where brands do slightly goofy things and get a big sarcastic reaction that’s largely good humoured. I think I could stomach more of this than flash mobs.

@morrisjh sums it up nicely:
Supermarket gets customers to reinforce the message it’s dying to convey, but couldn’t possibly print. #waitrosereasons #clever

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