A Bic Fail

During the past year the world has seen its fair share of social media fails, leaving many Community Managers, PR, marketing and other content agencies with nightmarish days ahead of them.

The latest fail? The Bic Women’s Day post, which raised more than a couple of eyebrows by telling woman (on Women’s Day…) to basically act like men.

Photo Credit: Women24

The following blogpost is a brief overview of what went wrong, how it affected the Bic brand and whether crisis like these ever find that silver lining. Please note, in no way is this article out to demean the agency responsible for the post, or Bic as a business and brand. We are sure they’ll emerge from this, dignity intact.

What Went Wrong? Apart From The Obvious

Firstly, it’s the year 2015, audiences are smarter and they have direct public access to criticise anyone and anything. Even if a company tries to hide bad commentary, they can publicise this action, which in return just adds more fuel to the fire. Never underestimate the power of your audience.

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Photo Credit: Facebook


Photo Credit: Facebook

Secondly, the content creation process and approval process: This piece of content should have been vetted by more than one person with one opinion. Right? Traditionally you have your copy writer and designer, once it has been created, it should go through a team lead, who liaises with the client to come to an agreement and only then do you have the ‘go-ahead’ to publish. Meaning, four people should have seen this piece.

In a previous blogpost ‘Keeping Clarity When Creating Content’, I mention how important it is to evaluate one’s content. It is so easy for content to come across as arrogant, or even worse, ignorant.

Thirdly, they should have taken this post down, or changed it immediately after the first negative comment was published.

Crisis Mode Activated

In the forty-eight hours that followed, I read their statements on various news platforms, and their official (second) apology on Facebook. The statements are okay. There is a tendency to point to outside sources, to try justify why they thought this would work, which is fair enough, because the audience would have asked about the origin of the idea anyway. Never try and deny wrongdoing, or point to another source.

The Facebook apology is better, there is a humane tone to it, as they try to address the audience in a friendly and humble manner. But the fact is, you will never satisfy everyone. Modern civilisation still enjoys a good public execution, just like the old days, but with a lot less blood.

Some people demanded an employee get fired, others urged Bic to donate funds to relevant NGOs supporting anti-rape and women rights. However, the most popular request was to remove their ‘feminine pen’ range. In 2012 Bic brought out a line of pink and purple pens ‘For Her’, which was met with contempt and made fun of by just about everyone ― from product reviewers on Amazon.com to talkshow host Ellen Degeneres. I wonder if this latest post would have received such backlash if the pen incident did not happen?

The Consequences?

Looking back over 2015, Bic received more social engagement in one day (11 August 2015), than any other time this year.

The brand’s main online presence is via blogs, however on 11 August 2015, Twitter took the lead and in twenty-four hours increased engagement for Bic by 124%.

There have been 8,316 posts about Bic this year, yet since 11 August 2015, at 9AM, to 12 August 2015 9AM, there have been 4,480 posts about the Women’s Day issue worldwide!

More than 70% of the posts have come from women, 97% through Twitter alone.

Where to Now?

It’s going to be a slow and steady climb back up. It is important to remind the audience that your brand is human, apologetic and, in a way, ‘under new management’. This could be a good opportunity for new marketing campaigns, like removing all gender defining pens, or a chance to boldly take the first step away from labelling ― by creating a pen range with no Bic branding and no gender colour…

There are so many ways to recover from this and benefit the greater good – but that’s where a good PR company comes in. So I won’t spill out all our good ideas, but it’s worth to note: this isn’t the first time brands have made a mistake. But they can bounce back. Every time.

Written by Jeanne Lloyd