When your brand identity gets hijacked by an online stranger, it’s natural that the first reaction will be panic. How you handle things afterwards however, needs to be level-headed. It seems that after a remarkably fast rise to fame, Shippam’s have decided to suspend the hilarious – yet unofficial – Twitter account @ShippamsPaste. Tweets are saved here for fishy-posterity, and you can immediately follow @EdJeff - the man behind the account.
I’ll not waste time beating around the bush, paste-people: You’ve made a huge mistake. With an aging fan-base most likely on the verge of extinction, it’s safe to say fish paste isn’t the coolest condiment on the street – a factor that made it the perfect target for this brilliantly daft spoof account. The idea of a Shippam’s paste even having a Twitter account is ludicrous enough to be funny in itself – a joke shot to pieces by the company’s decision to have Twitter suspend the account, replacing it with an alternative official feed that I won’t even give the publicity of linkage.
Teasing followers with ‘updates and competitions’, it’s clear how the classically-mistaken internal conversation will have panned out. “Why should a stranger have 9,000 followers by using our product? Those could be ours.”
The problem is, chaps – they never will be. Cold-hard-truth time: Nobody gives a shit about fish paste, and no jazzy-redesign or expensive campaign will ever have a chance of changing that. Failing to tell the difference between an olive branch and a knife, you’ve just sprayed your chances of being cool with a fine mist of misplaced piss. We’d genuinely love to boycott your product, but that would have required us to actually buy it in the first place.
Screw the semantics of who’s-in-charge; this is nothing less than a social media disaster – within less than 24 hours you’ve effectively lost around 8975 Twitter followers. Imagine sitting in a room with a client and trying to explain that.
If you’d left it alone, you could have easily been looking at 15,000 by next week. Not only that – your knee-jerk reaction has now created a Twitter account that needs to be looked after by someone, taking up further company resources. You haven’t thought this through.
You shouldn’t be shutting the account down – you should be offering the man behind it money. Dying products like yours are a nightmare to reinvigorate: Re-branding to try and attract a younger market would cost an absolute fortune. By letting an account as daft as @ShippamsPaste run free, you safely benefit from the best of both worlds: Old dears still buy paste whilst entirely unaware of what a Twitter is, whilst hipster dickheads like me go out and develop an irony-led addiction to seafood spreads.
I’ve no doubt that somebody in a suit somewhere will shrug off this criticism with a vocal-splurge about brand control and corporate safety, but the blunt truth is that you had genuinely had nothing to lose. You’ve regained control, but it couldn’t be more futile: It’s like fighting over who gets to be the captain of the Titanic.
You’ve not only looked a gift-horse in the mouth– you’ve also lost the best bit of PR you’ve been offered in years. I’ve no doubt that the man behind it will soon be offered work elsewhere – leaving you in full control of that lovely sinking ship.
EDIT: Just as I finished writing this, it seems the official account has been removed too. I’d like to think they’re offering the man behind a bag full of money, but I’ve got the feeling they’re a little too late…
DOUBLE-EDIT: Ed himself has since written a small piece for The Guardian. Go and read.