JC Penney tried, but failed to nail social marketing during Super Bowl XLVIII

Last year’s Super Bowl game was all about the success Oreo achieved with its Dunk in the Dark instant Twitter response. While lots of brands played with social this time round – from Tide to Chobani – no one quite nailed it in the same way, or certainly not with a legitimate real-time feel to it.

JC Penney however, was one that tried. The US department store posted two tweets throughout the evening with numerous typos in them. Needless to say, even in a sea of 25 million tweets (up from last year’s 24.1 million), they quickly went viral.

A drunken employee with access to the corporate social accounts was the inevitable assumption. Not surprising with copy that read: “Who kkmew theis was ghiong tob e a baweball ghamle. #lowsscorinh 5_0.” And: “Toughdown Seadawks!! Is sSeattle going toa runaway wit h this???”

In no time at all, they’d received upwards of 19,000 retweets and 8,000 favourites each. Things then got even better when other brands weighed in – Macy’s amusingly denied responsibility, Kia asked whether they needed a designated driver, and perhaps the best of all, Snickers looped in its own ongoing campaign concept by saying: “Eat a #SNICKERS, you’re not you when you’re hungry RT @JCPenney Who kkmew theis was ghiong tob e a baweball ghamle. #lowsscorinh 5_0.”

It was a brilliant marketing ploy – JC Penney was just about to respond with something groundbreaking, bang on target for the ever eager, second screen consumer. Weren’t they?

Alas, mittensgate. Yes mittens. The JC Penney social team were wearing mittens. New York / New Jersey was so cold they couldn’t possibly tweet in any other way (although it turns out it actually wasn’t), so they had to keep their fingers wrapped up in cosy mittens and desecrate all over what could have been a spectacular social hijack in the process. #tweetingwithmittens: how disappointing.

According to the follow-up posts, the initiative was designed to promote the retailer’s Team USA mittens for the upcoming Sochi Winter Olympics. From one cold sporting event (or not) to the next (also a case of, or not)…

Kate Coultas, a spokesperson for JC Penney, told BuzzFeed: “We knew Twitter would be very active but wanted to find a way to stay above the Super Bowl fray and instead create our own narrative. Given it was cold, and we are selling Go USA mittens — we thought it could be a fun stunt!”

Perhaps I’m being a touch harsh, the move has after all generated a ton of buzz, not to mention coverage across multiple major marketing publications, and all that without the hefty $4 million TV media buy. That said, without the best recent sales history, it just feels like there might have been somewhat of a slightly wasted opportunity in focusing merely on a pair of gloves for sale.

As Business Insider, who referred to the ploy as “frankly, a bit lame”, said: “It’s sort of hard to gauge the actual sentiment toward the campaign, as the Twitter bios of the people who interacted with JCPenney’s posts indicate that most of them are involved in media in one way or another.” This writer included.