Social Media- Oddities of the Web

by Dec 10, 2014

Many businesses rely a great deal on social media. With more and more eyeballs scanning the internet for answers to consumer questions, issues, and ideas, companies are quick to pick up the torch and use the platform to their advantage. But is this a good choice? Social media has become amazingly powerful and influential. Are companies using that access to power for good or for evil? Evil not in the sense of a mustache-twirling villain laughing maniacally while lightning strikes through the window of their laboratory. Although, some campaigns seem to have that flavor to them. I mean evil in the sense that it promotes their product while treating their potential customers like children or flat out insulting them. Or it’s a product or service that is more harmful than helpful. Junk food for example, while pretty tasty I’ll admit, isn’t very good for you.

Hot Durkey

What is hot durkey? Well, it’s as unpleasant as it sounds. The folks at Oscar Mayer came up with this idea to emulate consumers’ searches for turducken to their advantage. For those not in the know, turducken is a turkey stuffed with a duck and chicken, or other meat. You could shove an entire meatloaf into a turkey and serve it at your next big dinner party and it might be a big hit. Something of a meat-ception if you will. Oscar Mayer people decided to jump on this bandwagon of meat oddities but they went a more labor intensive route: a bunch of hotdogs molded around a loaf of bread to form the look of a full size turkey, and lovingly called it hot durkey. No, I’m not kidding.

Hot dogs are a staple food of summer, in the USA at least, and would certainly not be a big seller during the winter months. They are simple enough to prepare, but I remember eating a lot of dogs when I was a kid. My range of flavor buds were limited to hot dogs, cookies, chocolate milk, and skittles. Not exactly what is considered a candidate for culinary critiques. For busy parents, it’s a quick and easy meal to put in front of your kids during their winter break if they’re really picky eaters. But the hot durkey isn’t meant for kids, oh no. It’s meant for the grown-ups that are coming to your big holiday soirée. From the sheer size of it, kids would get sick of it long before adults would. Leftover turkey is bad enough. Imagine leftover hot durkey sitting in your fridge for a week or two.

How did this monstrosity of meat get popular? Through social media. Even though this was aimed at Thanksgiving cooks, I’m sure they won’t let up for the holiday crowd. But is it a good use of your social media power? Is pushing a product that is clearly not healthy for you a good use of the wide range of social media? Well, it certainly isn’t out of the range of other preparation suggestions that Oscar Mayer promotes for their hot dogs.

On the official Oscar Mayer website, there are over 300 recipes for their dogs alone. That includes a mix of cutting the dogs into fun or cute shapes, and forming them into little cars or creatures for the kids. Again, hot dogs are really just for kids. So a mass of hot dogs in the shape of a turkey isn’t out of the realm of possibility for the dog company (even though I couldn’t find the directions for the hot durkey on their site). I’m more surprised it took until 2014 for the idea to get popular enough to garish backlash. Because every social media campaign gets backlash, it’s par for the course.

While I don’t want to sound like I’m bashing the hot durkey, I just don’t understand why it’s something the company would want to push. Oscar Mayer is owned by Kraft Foods, which already has a solid footing in the holiday meal prep with their other products. The amount of hot dogs one person has to buy to emulate a full size turkey, even just to form on the outside of a loaf of bread, is on track to meet or beat the fourth of July cookout. Do the cold weather months hurt their hot dog sales so bad that they need to launch into full bizarre cooking mode to keep shareholders happy? Did they think this would be a cute idea to focus on through their social media that it was worth any type of backlash? Who knows in the end.

This is only one example of using social media for, let’s just say, a more questionable campaign. It did what social media is intended to do: make your product or brand memorable. Whether that memory is positive or negative really is out of the hands of the company after the fact. But the fact remains, it worked. The internet was talking about it during the buildup to Thanksgiving and I’m talking about it now. It did its job just fine. I know it didn’t make a sale with me, but spreading the word about it is what social media is all about.