What we Can Learn from the Chapstick ScrewUp

I was reading about the Chapstick social media fiasco on AdWeek today, and it struck me that there are a number of lessons that we can learn from this kind of mistake.

In case you missed it, the short story is:

  1. Chapstick posted an add on their Facebook page of a woman with her a$$ in the air
  2. A blogger wrote a post about how offensive she found it and also left a comment on the Chapstick Facebook page
  3. Chapstick deleted the comment
  4. Others comment on the Facebook page and their comments are deleted
  5. Chapstick’s ads with the line “Be Heard at Facebook.com/chapstick” become comical
  6. Chapstick continues to try to delete posts, but the posts are getting through (they can’t keep up with it)
  7. Eventually Chapstick deletes the offensive image
  8. Chapstick “apologizes” sort of.
  9. The head of global media relations for Chapstick says “We’re committed to listening. We’re committed to the dialogue. This is a perfect example of listening to your followers, your fans. We’re trying to live by those words.” (haha)

Where they Went Wrong and What You Can Learn

1. Don’t Delete Comments

If people have a problem, acknowledge it and address it.  I don’t personally think the ad was all that offensive, and in reality, many ads offend someone.  People share with you that they are offended because they want to be heard – they don’t expect you to immediately pull the ad.

My assumption would be that the person managing the Facebook page didn’t know how to respond, so they deleted the post while they figured it out.

This was the biggest initial mistake.  Don’t delete comments, respond.

Let them know:

– You are sorry they are offended

– You care that they are offended

– You will share their feedback

2. If you Apologize, then ACTUALLY Apologize

Chapstick doesn’t really apologize or take ownership.  The “apology note” says “We apologize that our fans felt like their posts are being deleted”.  They didn’t feel like their posts were being deleted, they were actually being deleted.  It was a fact.

Next, they basically tell you that it is your fault that the comment was deleted.  In most cases I suspect that the comments wouldn’t have actually fallen in to those categories.  Sharing dislike with a brand is not offensive.

When you apologize, actually apologize. Admit your mistake

3. Do What You Say or Become a Laughing Stock

Part of the problem is that brands are used to having mission statements like “we care” or “committed to improving lives”, but they don’t really do it.  It is really just a bunch of nice words put on a page.  They don’t mean it or live it.

In social media, if you don’t do what you say you can quickly become a joke.

The response from the VP is kinda hysterical  A commitment to listening doesn’t mean that you eventually take down an ad because someone doesn’t like it.  It means that you respect and acknowledge their comments and feedback.

Do what you say you will, or people will laugh.


  1. Carl Wurster says

    All of the points are right on. Meet the issue head on, be truthful, apologize when you mean it, defend your position when it is the right thing to do. Always be truthful (I know it sounds naive but ultimately you will do less damage).

  2. I enjoyed reading this, thank you! LOL & seriousness combined!!! Great tips!

  3. Carl

    Thanks for the comment. I completely agree with all of your points! It is surprising that a company that spends advertising $$ to promote their social media channels hasn’t taken the time to understand how social media REALLY works.

    – Krista


    Thanks for the comment 😉

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