Why Was KitchenAid Tweeting the Debate?

In case you missed it, during the first debate last night some social media genius at KitchenAid -- yes, the kitchen appliance maker -- tweeted an offensive comment about Barack Obama’s dead grandmother. The tweet read: “Obamas gma even knew it was going 2 b bad! She died 3 days b4 he became president.”

Hilarious! There’s no need to bore you with the profuse apologies that followed from KitchenAid, since we’ve been through this exercise countless times already; needless to say, they apologized. I’m more interested in a couple questions which I genuinely cannot answer.

First of all, why is KitchenAid’s Twitter account in the hands of a drunk 20-year-old frat boy, or some jackass with a similar sense of humor? Is this the same person who handles KitchenAid’s Twitter account on a regular, day-to-day basis?  If so, how did he get this job (I’m guessing this is a guy)?  And while we’re on the subject, what are the qualifications for tweeting for KitchenAid? A lot of Facebook pics with your collection of blenders?

More importantly, why was KitchenAid tweeting during the presidential debates in the first place?  I find this completely mystifying, since politics is controversial and most brands avoid controversy like the plague -- and since as a maker of kitchen appliances KitchenAid has, you know, absolutely nothing to do with politics. At all.  

But I think this gets back to something I’m seeing more and more of on social media (and which I find more and more annoying): the belief among marketers or social media practitioners that a brand has to be “always on,” meaning it must always have something to say about everything. It’s like those people who never stop talking because if they did, they’re afraid they might cease to exist. I hate those people.

This is lunacy. For one thing, even a brand’s most devoted followers will eventually feel overwhelmed (and bored and irritated) by the constant stream of tweets for tweets’ sake, and any real, substantive messages will get lost in the clutter. And if a lot of other brands do the same thing, it risks making the social channel less effective overall, as people tune out the cacophony of meaningless opinion, irrelevant comments and stupid jokes from corporate Twitter accounts, or stop following brands in the first place because they no longer expect anything useful from them. Finally, by attempting to engage with subjects that are not connected to the brand, you increase the risk of making a serious misstep. Stick to what you know and you (probably) won’t look dumb. Just ask KitchenAid.

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15 comments about "Why Was KitchenAid Tweeting the Debate?".
  1. Andrew Boer from MovableMedia , October 4, 2012 at 1:45 p.m.
    Agree. This notion of 24/7 listening/response bugs me too. Glad you are challenging it.
  2. Betsy Kent from Be Visible Associates , October 4, 2012 at 1:54 p.m.
    totally agree. stay on point. don't trust your brand to a person inexperienced in business. and use common sense! kitchen aid and the presidential debate????
  3. Kathryn Gorges from Marketing Possibility , October 4, 2012 at 1:54 p.m.
    My guess is that they weren't tweeting, but got mixed up in one of the tools they use -- either mobile twitter (which now makes it way to easy to tweet from one account when you think you're on the other because of the way they drop you into twitter from notifications -- so stupid on twitter's part) or hoot suite or something else. You have to choose the account you're tweeting from and they probably clicked the wrong teeny tiny little picture. The real issue is that there aren't tools that effectively segregate your personal accounts from your business accounts -- unless you use a separate hardware device -- and isn't that so 20th century! Don't we have the smarts to figure this out in an elegant way? This is a gap waiting for someone to drive a lucrative truck through -- and it's not for those $1000/month tools -- this should be for the $5/month tool or twitter itself. Hello entrepreneurs!
  4. Carin Galletta Oliver from Angelsmith , October 4, 2012 at 1:58 p.m.
    I think you called it correctly, KitchenAid has put an unqualified junior level 'guru' who uses social media to exhibit his/her arrested development on full display to head up its Twitter posts. I am consistently stunned (and amused) when brands trust their external communication to an individual with little experience and less sense. We can only assume (hope) he wasn't following brand guidelines.
  5. Albert Maruggi from Provident Partners , October 4, 2012 at 2:02 p.m.
    Kathryn you are right, that's the likely scenario. In fact is it easy to think you are tweeting on one account when it may be going out on two accounts in Hootsuite, horrible aspect of that UI by the way. Go to Mashable for a more complete account of the story http://mashable.com/2012/10/03/kitchen-aid-obama-dead-grandma/
  6. Brad Stewart from Adjoy , October 4, 2012 at 2:27 p.m.
    Brilliant idea, Kathryn. It could actually be done, with the right architecture and permissions.
  7. Carin Galletta Oliver from Angelsmith , October 4, 2012 at 2:33 p.m.
    Good point Kathryn. Our client accounts are all on different account and with different teams. I will talk to our techie geeks and let them know your suggestion. Then we'll name the new tool after you. :)
  8. Kathryn Gorges from Marketing Possibility , October 4, 2012 at 2:45 p.m.
    Cool! Thanks Brad and Carin! Hoping the feature comes out soon -- I wonder how many people have lost jobs or sales over this. Not every gaffe becomes major news and I'm sure they're are plenty!
  9. Albert Maruggi from Provident Partners , October 4, 2012 at 2:49 p.m.
    Need to update my comment - see this is like KitchenAid. I ran into a situation where I could swear, a tweet went out on two separate accounts using hootsuite earlier this year. I tried now, sent a tweet from a different account while in the tab of a separate account so what I thought was a fault in the UI is not. apologies to Hootsuite. PS I'm a paying user of the platform as well.
  10. Erik Sass from mediapostpublications , October 4, 2012 at 2:51 p.m.
    Whoops, looks like you're right: it was a mistake from crossed Twitter accounts. Rant withdrawn (except I stand behind the part about whoever tweeted the comment being a jackass -- now, more than ever). I guess the real question,as Kathryn G. points out, is why there isn't better separation of personal and corporate accounts.
  11. Faye Oney from SDS , October 5, 2012 at 10:08 a.m.
    Great post Erik! Don't apologize for it, you are absolutely correct. This is what companies should expect when they entrust their social media to someone young and inexperienced in communicating with people. As for the social media management tool crossover...I manage and update 3 Twitter accounts on Hootsuite and I wouldn't even think of including my own personal Twitter account in my Hootsuite business account for this very reason. That's why personal accounts should stay separate from your company's accounts.
  12. Mark Silber from Joule , October 5, 2012 at 12:01 p.m.
    This was obviously a sly reference to the Khruschev Nixon kitchen debate.
  13. Brien Downie from not important , October 5, 2012 at 2:16 p.m.
    why is the template always, "just goes to show you that you shouldn't put a young guru in charge of your social media" and not, "just goes to show you that you shouldn't put an old person who doesn't know how to use a twitter client correctly." Don't get me wrong, whoever did this made a huge mistake, and likely lost their job over it. But still, the template for analysis here is annoying.
  14. Carin Galletta Oliver from Angelsmith , October 5, 2012 at 2:37 p.m.
    @Brien - you are correct. But I would hope that as one gains experience, one learns to count to 10 before posting or at least remembers getting in big trouble for pulling some stupid stunt at the beginning of one's career.
  15. Tracy Dupree from Alcatel-Lucent , October 19, 2012 at 3:04 p.m.
    If there is a plan for a brand like KitchenAid to tweet around the Presidential debates, it seems it'd be wise to have a plan, a solid, no holes plan. #justsayin I don't care who you're for or vs. but you don't attack somebody's dead family member. #Fail obviously But to Kathryn's point, a tool that made it that much easier to separate "personal & work" life would keep these things from happening, or so we hope.