McDonald’s vs. TeamCoco: Why Some Twitter Campaigns Fail Miserably and Others Rock

You’ve purchased a Promoted Tweet, started interacting with your followers, and you even have a viral campaign outside of Twitter. You’re doing everything right. So why are your Twitter followers bashing your product with abandon?

McDonald’s must be asking itself this very question in the second week of its “McRib Returns” campaign. On the surface, everything was done right – but we’ll let you in on why the McRib campaign is getting so much negative Twitter buzz while the TeamCoco campaign over the past few weeks – featuring similar tactics – saw such success.

The Campaigns

McDonald’s MicRib Campaign

To be honest, I didn’t know about the history of the McRib without doing a little digging. Some people call it a legendary sandwich; others a sandwich that just won’t go away. Whatever your perspective, the McRib has a long history of viral marketing that puts other 500+ calorie sandwiches to shame.

In 2005, McDonald’s issued a press release saying that the McRib would be permanently removed from its menu. This was followed by a “McRib Farewell Tour”, which ended up being a viral campaign aimed at increasing public support for the misunderstood sandwich. While the Tour was happening, McDonald’s was silently sponsoring a “Save the McRib” petition, drumming up as much buzz as possible. In 2006, the McRib came back, only to be ushered off again by the “McRib Farewell Tour II”. And a “McRib Farewell Tour III” followed its 2007 re-debut.

After disappearing and re-appearing for the next three years, the McRib made its 2010 comeback – but this time, on Twitter.

McDonald’s issued this elated message last month announcing the triumphant return of the embattled sandwich:

“Turns out we’re not good at keeping secrets. The rumors are true. McRib returns Nov. 2 for a limited time @McDonalds NATIONWIDE! ^MM”

Coupled with this, McDonald’s sponsored the “McRib is back” trend for an entire day Friday, November 5th – at a cost of about $80,000.

Conan O’Brien’s Team Coco Campaign

It started as a grassroots movement to support the apparently dissed comedian, and became a social media juggernaut. The Team Coco campaign kicked off when Conan O’Brien was kicked out of NBC. Hundreds of loyal social media users cried foul of the funny man’s treatment by the cable TV station, and started up Facebook fan pages and popular hashtags on Twitter.

O’Brien was quick to capitalize on this momentum, and he and his team started the official I’m with Coco Facebook page which has garnered over 1,000,000 likes since January 2010.

Conan then took to Twitter. His Twitter account is among the most quoted celebrity account out there, and he regularly interacts with his followers.

When news of his new show entitled “Conan” on TBS surfaced, Team Coco was quick to generate as much buzz on Twitter as possible – TBS purchased #conanreturns the day of his premier to get the Twitter-verse talking. However, right underneath this Promoted Trend was a handful of other Conan-related trending topics, such as Watching Conan and #teamcoco.

The Response

Both the McDonald’s McRib and Team Coco campaigns were the result of social media outcry against the disappearance of an icon – a sandwich and a comedian, respectively. They both harnessed viral marketing and Twitter as vehicles for online support. And both campaigns purchased promoted trends to get the word out.

But it’s not about the methods when you’re working to raise your visibility on Twitter – it’s about the response.

Take a look at the Tweets that searching for “McRib” reveals:

And compare this to the Tweets surrounding the phrase “Team Coco”:

Although completely unscientific, I didn’t skew these responses in any way. They are just naturally what comes up when you search “McRib” and “Team Coco” in Twitter. Try it for yourself.

The Verdict

It looks like McDonald’s McRibs are just as unhealthy for the Twitter-verse as they are for your body. The Twitter campaign failed, and failed spectacularly. Negative buzz is one thing, but a steady stream of negativity, unsavory comparisons and disparaging remarks – with very little positive reactions at all – is indicative of a failed campaign.

Team Coco, on the other hand, received lots of positive feedback. The Tweets that were attached to the many hashtags and trending topics related to Conan were filled with first support during his TV hiatus, and then excitement leading up to last night’s premier of “Conan” on TBS. And the fact that Twitter users created their own trending tags and topics – rather than only relying on the one purchased by TBS – shows that they are really engaged with Conan’s message.

The different outcomes might have something to do with the market that each campaign targeted. Ostensibly, both targeted Generation Y, middle-class, wealthy individuals who use social media. For Team Coco, this was a good move: it’s the younger generation who really connect with the youthful, slightly dark, sarcastic and witty comedian. However, we’re not so sure that this is the target market for McRibs – maybe it’s families on a budget, maybe shift workers looking for a quick and filling meal, but likely not affluent Generation Y.

Also, the McDonald’s campaign was a bit too fabricated to find much traction with Twitter users. The on-again-off-again McRib has always seemed like a big marketing ploy rather than an actual sandwich, and its fake “Farewell Tours” and petitions likely have put a bad taste in people’s mouths. The Team Coco campaign, on the other hand, was a genuine response to Conan’s trials and tribulations. The Twitter-verse felt his pain, sympathized, and stood up to support him. It was authentic, as far as marketing campaigns go.

The lesson? Know your market on Twitter. Know who you’re reaching (and who you’re not). And keep it honest – a totally fabricated campaign will feel hollow, and us Twitter-users are smart – we know what’s authentic and what’s not. Be prepared for a fallout if you fail to target your campaign and if it rings false to the Twitter-verse.