Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Aflac Quacks the Social Media Code

     By now you've probably heard about Gilbert Gottfried and the Aflac duck.  For those who missed it, Gottfried was the distinctive voice of AFFFFFLLLAAAAACCCCCC! for more than a decade.  Sadly, the loud-mouthed comedian tweeted some insensitive "jokes" in the aftermath of Japan's horrific earthquake/tsunami.  (I won't repeat the jokes.  If you need to read them you can find them yourself on the internet.) Talk about tone deaf- a massive tragedy isn't something to joke about.  For what it's worth, Gottfried later used Twitter to apologize.  As it turns out, Aflac does big business in Japan- so it was no surprise when Gottried was fired.  Thanks to those entertaining commercials you probably know Aflac insurance is for people who are hurt and can't work.  Ironically, Gottfried has hurt himself and he's not working at Aflac anymore.

     But that's not the point.  What's noteworthy is how Aflac is using social media to make lemonade out of Gottfried's raspberries.  The Aflac duck has its own Twitter page- @aflacduck which includes a link to raise money for Japanese quake/tsunami victims. The insurance giant is also holding an open casting call- to find a replacement duck voice-over artist.  Clever.   This is getting a lot of attention in the media.  A quick glance on-line reveals stories in dozens of media outlets- from ABC News to As they say, it's the kind of press you just can't buy.  Aflac invites everyone to "take a Quack at it" (being its spokes-duck).  You can apply at and at Monster too.  Here are the directions courtesy of Aflac:

"How would the Duck sound- informative, frustrated, happy, surprised, angry?
Feel free to add grunts, groans, and mutterings,
but no words other than "Aflac.
Include whatever you think
the Duck should sound like.
Be creative and show us if you've got
what it takes to be the next Aflac Duck."

     Published reports say Aflac has already gotten more than 28,000 applications.  Casting calls will be held Thursday (March 31) and Friday (April 1) in New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, Las Vegas and Austin.  You can also send an audio file directly to Aflac.  Do you suppose any TV cameras might be invited to those auditions?  Film at 11:00.  And get this: Aflac's Facebook page is now liked by 242,184 people.  Out of curiosity, I checked some other insurance companies.  State Farm Insurance has 67,512 Facebook likes.  Allstate Insurance has 27,301.  And talk about putting it all together- a recent Aflac tweet directs people to Aflac's Facebook page- where they'll be posting audio of some duck voice audition finalists.

     Lessons Learned:

1) Tragedies are not humorous.  Seriously.
2) Social media can reach a large audience quickly- but as Gilbert Gottfried found out that can be a really bad thing.
3) Social media mistakes can and will happen as we all learn to handle this ever-changing technology.
4) Aflac could have been frustrated, surprised and angry by Gottfried's unfunny attempts at humor.
5) Instead, Aflac saw an opportunity in disguise- and it's called social media.
6) Creative crisis management can help "insure" your company's reputation.

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