Australian airline Qantas (@QantasAirways) conducted a Twitter campaign where it asked followers to show their support for Australia’s rugby team the Wallabies who were playing against New Zealand’s All Blacks in the Bledisloe Cup last weekend. The prize was tickets to the rugby match.
The uproar from fans/followers came when Qantas “awarded free tickets to a man who pledged to dress as Fijian-born player, Radike Samo,” according to B&T. Qantas apologized and deleted the tweet containing the winner’s photo of him and a friend pictured wearing afro-style wigs and painted in black face posing with ruby player Samo. Samo stood by Qantas and felt the campaign and winning tweet/photo was all in good fun, but many others were angry and offended and tweeted the airline as such.
In the B&T article, it points out that if it was Virgin this may not have caused quite a commotion since Virgin is known to be “cheeky and naughty.” Brands that are edgy can get away with a bit more, but it’s because that’s what their communities want and expect of them. In the case of Qantas where it’s image and voice is not racy, raw and edgy but rather more corporate and of the highest standards so it needs to be more careful. However, Qantas handled the matter well. They removed the offending content and apologized.
This backlash could have been avoided had they picked a winner with a more neutral tweet/photo. And it’s certainly a lesson to all in that you never know how your community will react to a campaign or a simple tweet. Even the brands who really understand and know their community, there will always be part of the community who may think a particular piece of content is all in good fun, but that same content could be offensive to others in the community so it’s a delicate balance and brands always need to navigate the waters carefully and learn along the way what their fans and followers want and don’t want.