Red Lobster misses the boat with Beyoncé’s #Formation shout-out

February 10 2016
Published in Crisis

This weekend, American restaurant chain Red Lobster was presented with the kind of publicity opportunity that marketers dream of. Just before her halftime performance at the Super Bowl, pop superstar Beyoncé released her new single Formation, whose lyrics mention Red Lobster restaurants. Fans waited expectantly for the brand to respond to the mention on Twitter…and waited, and waited.

It took Red Lobster a full eight hours to respond to the 275,963 tweets generated by the endorsement, and Twitter was not impressed. We used Visibrain to find out what users had to say and to show why timing is so crucial in social media, especially where Twitter is concerned.

How did we do it?

We monitored all tweets posted between February 6th and February 8th (times are in GMT) that mentioned Red Lobster, either as a Twitter handle, a hashtag, or as an expression, as well as tweets sent by the brand itself.

A tweetstorm that went unnoticed by the brand

It all started when Beyoncé’s new single, Formation, was released just hours before her appearance at the Super Bowl halftime show. The actual lyrics are pretty racy, so we’ll just say she sings about taking her partner to Red Lobster as a reward for making her happy and leave it at that.

Beyoncé is well-known for her massive influence and has 14.2 million followers on Twitter alone. As a result, an endorsement from her in any form was never going to go unnoticed. Add to that the context of her appearance at the Super Bowl and the huge audiences it attracts, and it was truly a golden opportunity for Red Lobster.

The reaction on Twitter was explosive, with the number of tweets about the brand spiking dramatically from 9 pm (GMT) and quickly reaching a peak of 35,608 tweets per hour.

An overview of the tweet volume timeline for Red Lobster

If we zoom in on the timeline, we can even see the precise moment Twitter volumes started to rise, including three sharp peaks at 8.57 pm, 9.03 pm, and 9.13 pm:

An graph of tweet volumes at the time news of Beyoncé's Red Lobster shout-out broke on Twitter

A closer inspection of the data reveals that these spikes were caused by celebrities and influencers who were tweeting about the brand, fanning the flames of the hype even more. As we can see below, model Kendall Jenner @KendallJenner and Youtubers Tyler Oakley @tyleroakley and Kingsley @kingsleyyy all tweeted about Red Lobster less than 30 minutes after the news broke:

Top celebrities and influencers who tweeted about Red Lobster soon after the news broke

In the first hour alone after news of Beyoncé’s Red Lobster shout-out broke on Twitter:

  • There were 27,456 tweets referring to the brand sent by 19,205 individual users
  • The @redlobster Twitter handle was mentioned 2,344 times

The tweets kept pouring in, and as the minutes ticked by with no response from Red Lobster, Twitter started to get impatient:

In spite of all of Twitter’s attempts to get Red Lobster’s attention, they were in for a long wait.

Better late than never: Red Lobster responds

It seems impossible that no-one at Red Lobster noticed this massive influx of tweets and mentions, and yet, it took them over eight hours to respond with this post:

Understandably, Twitter was not impressed, and many criticized them heavily for having taken so long to react:

However, in spite of the criticism, Red Lobster’s tardy response was their most-retweeted post ever, racking up tens of thousands of retweets and likes.

Although Red Lobster’s initial tweet was considered a little cheesy by some, its following tweets were better received. This apologetic tweet earned thousands of retweets:

The excuse comes off as vague and weak however. How can the brand justify the fact that they failed to notice such a huge boost in activity on Twitter? At a time like the Super Bowl, which is known to be pure social media gold, all brands should have been on high alert.

On top of this, it seems unimaginable that Red Lobster had no social media monitoring system set up to alert them in such a situation. Their predicament is a textbook case of poor social media monitoring: the brand was obviously unprepared and missed out on a brilliant opportunity to promote themselves free of charge.

Missing the boat may have earned the brand some social media ridicule, but did it do any real damage to their reputation?

Huge amounts of publicity for Red Lobster

In spite of all of the embarrassment it has caused, no one can deny that this whole affair generated a lot of publicity for Red Lobster.

Several Twitter users commented on all of the attention the brand was getting from the endorsement and the potential increase in revenue it represents:

If we look at the most shared links in tweets mentioning the @redlobster Twitter handle, it would seem that the press agrees.

The most-retweeted link is this article from Buzzfeed about how Red Lobster could expect a considerable increase in its number of customers over the coming weeks:

The top links shared in tweets mentioning Red Lobster

Perhaps the biggest advantage of Beyoncé’s endorsement is that it came at no cost to the brand. At a time when other brands were investing millions to stand out at the Super Bowl, Red Lobster got all of this publicity for free.

If we use the Visibrain Quick Trends feature to compare overall Twitter activity around the Red Lobster brand with that of Doritos and Mountain Dew whose ads attracted a lot of attention at the Super Bowl, we can see that tweet volumes for Red Lobster are on par with those of the paid advertisers:

A graph comparing tweet volumes for Red Lobster with that of two brands who were advertising at the Super Bowl

This particular case is proof of the importance of effective social media monitoring. Red Lobster was caught completely unawares by its appearance in Formation, but expecting the unexpected is what social media is all about. Being able to react immediately to a real time event can have huge benefits, as Oreo proved with their Dunk in The Dark blackout ad in 2013.

It would seem that in this case, all’s well that ends well for Red Lobster. Although the brand’s gaffe was embarrassing, it may have even attracted more attention than an prompt response would have done, and didn’t do any lasting damage to its reputation. Along with Beyoncé’s endorsement, the brand should be in for a considerable boost over the coming months.

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Published in Crisis