Ragu Pasta Sauce Leaves Bad Taste With Social Media Users


[Above image: basically, how Ragu portrayed Dads in the kitchen ...and in return how web commenters / Dad bloggers portrayed Ragu's social media team.]

We’ve waited a long time for this day. Finally, a sauce brand has made a social media faux pas. It’s not every day we can blog about pasta sauce, but when we can it tastes good. Overly processed, would survive nuclear winter, tomato-like sauce kind of good.

Wait, what? We’re blogging about pasta sauce? Yes because we want you to learn from their mistakes …so you don’t stir up the same ill will from the web. And any day we can make sauce-related puns is a good day. We’ll try for some more, keep reading.

So say you’re Ragu (or their agency) and you decide it’s time to get involved in the social web. What next?

Uh, duh. Spam popular bloggers you have zero connection with to check out your super awesome videos, of course!

Ragu sauce, which lets you follow the time-honored tradition of cutting corners in the kitchen by skipping the creative process of making your own, fresh-tasting sauce applied this shortcut to their social web efforts. Unfortunately, Ragu doesn’t understand that blogger relations is just that. Relations.

Their first artificially-flavored™ interactions with dad bloggers included spam Tweets which looked like this:

What did they link to? This video, which basically insulted everyone they linked to and opened the can of worms:

What did they earn from their spamming? A slew of negative posts, including this one from C.C. Chapman with the title: Ragu Hates Dads.

This bit from C.C. says it all about how Ragu’s actions affected him as a dad and how the brand misunderstands their audience:

As the person in my household who does all of the shopping and all of the cooking I took offense to this video. Implying that dads can only cook the simple things and Ragu is somehow going to help make that easier. Give me a break!

I’m sure there are plenty of couples out there where this might be true, but once again we have a brand who has decided to only focus on the mom side of the parenting equation and play into the stupid stereotypes that dads get pegged with all the time.

When will brands wake up to dads and the active role we play in our children’s lives. I’m sick of seeing every company that wants to have a parenting focus completely forget about the male side of the equation. I long for a brand to embrace fathers and really step up and cover both sides of parenting.

Ragu, you failed. You tried to be clever and you blew it. Whoever your agency is that told you this was a good idea should be fired because they are doing things for you that snake oil salesman are selling companies on every day and you’ve written the check for it. You should have known better. They should have served you better.

Chris Brogan’s comment in the thread below is spot on and sums this up from a marketing perspective:

Now that social media is a checkbox service offered by agencies and run by the junior associates at those agencies as part of a much larger campaign wherein which the only part of social that gets done is the pushing out of meaningless link spam, I’d like to offer that I think Ragu has no idea that you exist, let alone any sense of your cooking skills.

Their content, my friend, does not rule.

I’ll second what Chris said. Their content was amateurish and cheesy. Their approach spammy and disingenuous. And contains just 20% of your daily allowance of sodium per half cup.

But should we expect any different? Ragu isn’t actually social – in any sense of the word. I couldn’t find a single human being behind their social marketing efforts. Not sometimes, it is always the sauce talking: Twitter, Facebook and their website:

ragu-twitter

The only thing we can conclude is the sauce is a robot, has become sentient, or they’re a faceless corporate entity. Which do you think? I’m really hoping for robot. Finally: sauce by robots, for robots.  Because there are no people here: either behind the product or marketing (you can’t even find a “team” page on their website).

But who cares about people when the sauce is fulfilling his master plan to pit Dads against Moms in the kitchen. Because …their brand experts have decided this is how we sell more sauce!

So mixed in with the mommy and contest Tweets you’d expert to see for a brand like Ragu, you now have a conversation which looks something like this:

And …radio silence on Ragu’s part. They didn’t respond to any of it. They also didn’t respond to the 220+ comments on C.C.’s thread, or any of the other bloggers who wrote about it. Will they respond here?

We can only conclude their silence is due to one (or multiple) of the following:

1. They can’t respond because someone up top refuses to let them be social (even though they are using social channels). Basically they’re hamstrung themselves and probably should have thought a bit more before taking a “checkbox approach” to social media, as Chris Brogan articulates.

2. They can respond but they have no idea what to say and lack crisis communications plan.

3. They’re clueless we’re even talking about them.

4. They’re waiting to think of even better sauce-related puns.

Either way, by participating in social but not actually willing to get involved in discussions, they’re basically setting themselves up for the above situation (similar to the previous McDonalds example we shared). This is a potential outcome for any brand who registers a social channel but ignores users. You can’t half commit.

But in this case, it actually has nothing to do with the product making it even more shameful. Here they are just participating to take (have people talk about them) and not give anything back or build any real connections with consumers. Actually now that I think about it, we’ve given them what they asked for. We’re talking about Ragu – that’s what they wanted, right? Any mention is a good mention? But as Gini Dietrich wisely notes: there is such a thing as bad PR.

Comments are open if you’re feeling saucy.