Low Moments in Marketing: Dave and Buster’s Racist Tweet

I love ads…

I see ads all the time. I am continuously watching commercials and pre-roll videos, listening to Pandora spots, and viewing online ads and banners. Most of this viewing has more to do with evaluation and inspiration then it does looking to make a purchase decision. I am in marketing, I understand the game that is played everyday with promotions. It is a game I truly enjoy and one I find to be one of the hardest challenges anyone could face.

Most of the time I just view ads and keep my thoughts about the ads internalized. My thoughts generally come out when I am in discussions with people of my own ilk or to myself when I am making my morning commute.

I decided to share some of my thoughts on a variety of ads and create a new series in the blog (a post more than 2 times a quarter would be a start…) called “Low Moments in Marketing” or L-MIM. This is the second post in the series.

Dave and Buster’s Racist Tweet sends shockwaves through social media

Race has been a heated and reoccurring issue among current events for months now. From the Ferguson shooting to equality in the workplace, race is a polarizing subject that our media continues to highlight. Most of the time race is enhanced by media, but when it comes to Dave and Buster’s ill-worded tweet, this one was just too easy to sit back and scratch your head in wonder.

It has been over a decade since my first ‘Taco Tuesday’ event that happened at a local watering hole in my hometown. This was a destination for the low priced Mexican cuisine and even better drink specials. This weekly ritual of gastro delight was a can’t miss event which brought together a gaggle of friends for a guaranteed night of hilarity.

In an attempt to generate buzz on one of the slowest days of the week for a restaurant, Dave and Buster’s sent a tweet with the intention of attracting those individuals craving some Mex-American cuisine and mindless gaming. Unfortunately, their choice of context is what got them into social media hot water. dave-busters-tweet-hed-2014

By now, everyone has seen the tweet (and I will include it below) but I want to discuss the mindset of this tweet. Was this a purposeful tweet with a motive of attention, or was this a tongue in cheek message gone wrong? While many believe it was intentional to gain more attention to Dave and Buster’s with the NFL playoffs right around the corner, I feel this was a slick attempt at humor gone wrong. I do not believe it has any ‘real’ negative intention, this should have gone through at least one filter on its way out.

Many times in larger corporations, one of the most junior members of the marketing team has the daunting task of manning the social media channels, garnering the ever-elusive engagement and fostering visits from a non-ROI generating medium. The constant attention and SPAM filtering is one of the major reasons why this incredibly important task gets volleyed over the wall to the junior members as a right of passage. Unfortunately, your social media channels are one of the few marketing arenas that has DIRECT access to your customers and ALLOWS YOU to have a conversation in a location they frequent. An analogy I use with clients (that I do not believe anyone has used previously) is social media is like being the bartender at a cocktail party with half a billion people. You are not integrated in their every conversation, but you at least have their attention while they are seeking something you offer.

The lesson out of the Dave and Buster’s tweet is one we have stated for years. Get a second set of eyes when you are attempting to integrate humor, coy, or tongue in cheek innuendos into anything that is forward facing to your customers. Now I am not a fan of the corporate bureaucracy that required 60-90 day approvals through the legal department and 25 other desks. This kills the real time nature of social media, but when you are attempting to deviate from your consistent brand message and toe the line of decency, get a second opinion.

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