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Oh, No! This Blog Was Hacked! (Chipotle’s PR Stunt Shows Poor Taste)

chipotle-hack-hed-2013-300x168Okay, the title is a joke. But did Chipotle’s fake Twitter hack legitimize the faux attack as a down-and-dirty publicity stunt? Apparently the random tweets, which include such nonsensical posts as “do i have a tweet?” and “mittens13 password leave” were part of a treasure hunt promotion based on a series of puzzles.

The promotion seems similar to alternate reality games run by blockbuster movies. But it was the fake claim, and specifically the use of the loaded word “hack,” that spiced up the story and gained Chipotle 4,000 followers and 12,000 RTs in a single day. The whole episode played as a ploy to bump up the social following.

In a way, I see the humor in it. It seems that every boldfaced name who’s tweet-blurted something regrettable has initially claimed to be a victim of a hack, with Anthony Weiner being at the top of the list. It’s beyond cliche. And a Twitter breach isn’t exactly up there with the PRISM scandal. It’s designed to be public, so there’s no confidentiality violation.

Yet the fake hack makes light of something that can happen, and if it does, it can have a serious reputation impact. More importantly, there’s the issue of trust. Chipotle is a terrific brand with a great product and customer experience (I’m a regular customer and a big fan), and although the entire hack episode was lighthearted, it was a trick.

Finally, the fake tweets were flatter than a stale tortilla. If you’re going to fib to your customers and risk their trust, at least make it entertaining!

So, for most marketing and PR types, as well as any customers who were watching, the fake hack may have been well-intentioned, but it was hard to swallow. And I hope the mixed coverage can nip the trend in the bud, but that’s doubtful. After Burger King experienced a legitimate hack, both the MTV and BET networks decided to stage their own attacks to get in on the press coverage.Chipotle isn’t the first brand to fake a Twitter hack, and it won’t be the last.

 

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