Yesterday, the twitter account for Durex (@DurexSA) sparked a furore amongst the twitter community regarding sexist and distasteful jokes but in the end, a perceived “abuse against woman joke” sealed their fate.
So my question is: Did they really cross the line?
I’m going to say ... not necessarily ... until they started responding (or not) to the backlash. Are they crass? Yes. Are they ignorant? Yes. Are they sexist? Yes. Are they plagiarising? Yes. Are they objectifying woman and men? Yes. Are they turning the once quality Durex brand into a common ‘I’m scared I might catch something if I touch people who use Durex’ brand. Probably.
Are they advocating violence against women? Not likely. And even if that is what was perceived, it was how it was dealt with that caused many, including me, more alarm. Have a few exclamation marks!
Damage Control (all made up bar the first two):
DurexSA: Why did God give men penises? So they'd have at least one way to shut a woman up. #DurexJoke
FeministsSA: What the eff @DurexSA - it is the eve of the 16 Days of Activism, and you're making violence against women jokes. That is truly ignorant.
DurexSA: Hi ladies, which joke are you talking about? We had no intention of doing anything of the sort!
FeministsSA: How can you not know which one?! The shutting a woman up with a penis joke. Distasteful and uncalled for!
DurexSA: Wow! Really sorry ladies. Had no idea it would be read like that and it’s not meant like that. Deleted. Consider us disciplined :(
FeministsSA: Ignorance is not an excuse. Shocking. Watch yourselves.
DurexSA: Yes ma’am. Apologies again.
OK, so the perfect scenario would really be that they stop tweeting such trash but in the absence of true common sense, the PR team could have responded with something similar to the above exchange and saved a whole bunch of their rubberized face. Granted it would not have solved all their issues but a strategy change would be required for that.
Why should they have to apologise I hear some of you raging? Well, because they're a brand. Whether they are right or wrong is not the question here. How they are perceived, is.
Are their tweets good for the brand?
That depends on what they are trying to achieve. If they are targeting misinformed youth with bad grammar who find lame sexual jokes funny, then yes. That may sound like a joke but it’s really not. I’ve never done any research into condom users but it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure that it’s the youth who would most likely use condoms the most. The youth of today are typically grammarless *cringe* on social media platforms and if you say “their” when you mean “they’re” they will more than likely not notice. “What rubbish!” I hear you say? Yes, yes I am well aware that this kind of targeting is very narrow and short sighted of Durex since most youths would get prophylactics from their clinics before spending money on Durex. I’m just suggesting that we don’t know their strategy, no matter how shocking.
Where did they fall short?
It is evident (partly from the grammar but mostly the reaction) that they have placed a young tweeter at the helm of their twitter account and this is a problem many companies face. Placing someone you think will translate your brand at the level at which you are trying to target is a good idea. Having no-one monitor it is a mistake. Young, mid-life or old – we all need moderation.
These people should not have been given a licence to respond during conflict. They are too young, too attached and mostly just too defensive to do a good job. It is a direct attack on them after all. The brand has actually suffered very little except a harsh finger wagging for employing numb nuts.
What are their options?
Employ a new agency – they certainly are spoilt for choice after yesterday. I saw at least six different companies offering their services and although I think it’s quite vulture like, it’s probably their best avenue for rebuilding the Durex brand.
OR (maybe even and)
Employ a good PR person/agency that can monitor what these Neanderthals are tweeting. Talking about sex draws SUCH a fine line between acceptable and 'I can't belive you just said that?!' that even the most amazing literary scholars would need to tread with caution.
There is a time and place for sex jokes which is generally out the mouths of well known comedians/celeb’s at ... well ... ok fine, anytime really. They are normally well executed, well timed and most importantly to an audience that expects it. Durex underestimated how ‘quality’ their target market is and should perhaps invest in some well spent money on researching their market properly. Both current and potential. As a brand, you’ll be crucified for crossing lines that people cross all the time.
Durex cocked-up in the way they responded in my opinion. They should go sit in their room and think long and hard about what they have done ;)
Silver lining? They now have a bigger audience to impress with their next, well thought out stint!
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