Instagram’s #curvee and Tesco’s Ribena ban – Is any publicity good publicity? 

 Instagram's ban of hashtag #curvy lead to #curvee

So last week saw two famous bans.  Instagram banned – then reinstated – the hashtag #curvy, while Tesco removed Ribena and Capri-Sun from its shelves in a bid to prevent childhood obesity (despite still selling Coca-Cola).

While both brands acted for the presumed greater good, adopting something of a socially conscious approach, their tactics seem to have backfired in PR terms.  Or did they?

Instagram’s ban of the word curvy lead to user outrage, as the hashtags #skinny, #thin, #thinspiration and even #anorexia were still allowed to be used.  However, instead of voting with their feet and leaving the social media platform in droves, Instagrammers instead adopted alternative hashtags such as #curvee, which garnered 100,000+ searches since its inception.  The new hashtags were used in conjunction with pictures of plus-sized women (though I hate that term), celebrating their bodies in all their ‘#curvee’ glory. The supposed PR-own goal also lead to acres of media coverage in the Daily Mail and the Huffington Post to name but a few.

Feeling the heat, Instagram responded to the public outcry by reinstating the hashtag #curvy, thus leading to – you guessed it – further coverage, and a great example of them listening to their audience.

For a platform that is no stranger to controversy (remember the ban on pictures of women with mastectomies, which lead to the #freethenipple hashtag?), Instagram once again rides the storm and comes out with possibly more users as a result.

Time will tell if Tesco manage same feat after banning Ribena and Capri-Sun, however for the moment, the supermarket’s stance is gaining a lot of momentum on Twitter.

Tesco's ban of Ribena and Capri-Sun has created a twitter storm

So the question remains, is any publicity good publicity?  And the answers is, frustratingly, it depends.  For a social media platform which boasts millions of users, the negative publicity can often add to the notoriety.  And ultimately, human nature is that if we read about something contentious, odds are we’ll pop over to have a look.

However, this does not necessarily apply to every brand.  For example, if you run an accountancy firm and the press publish a story online that your own books aren’t in order, no amount of hashtagging or coverage will add value to your business.

Similarly, a restaurant that has a rodent problem may make for great reading, but your customers will remember you for all the wrong reasons.

So forget the old-adage that any publicity is good publicity.  Instead focus on genuine good publicity that reflects the great things about your brand.  This will do more than get people talking, for the right reasons, it will get them responding too.

Halima Khatun

Halima Khatun

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