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From the 6th Annual Shorty Awards

Cap’n Crunch’s Viral Uniform Controversy

Finalist in Real-Time Response

About this entry

The Cap’n Crunch brand wanted to find a way to engage with consumers (primarily men) in their 20s and 30s, who often eat the cereal as an afternoon or late-night snack, rather than for breakfast. Huge partnered with the brand to relaunch the @RealCapnCrunch Twitter account and Facebook page and create more online conversation around the brand through social media, as well as produce and launch an animated late-night talk show hosted by the Cap’n on YouTube. In June 2013, an anonymous user posted an image on Reddit pointing out that although U.S. Navy captains have four stripes on their uniforms, Cap’n Crunch only has three and therefore was not a real captain. As this news spread through Reddit, the blogosphere and social media, the Cap’n’s Twitter team jumped on the opportunity to get involved in the real-time marketing opportunity. The Huge team’s immediate tactical plan was to monitor the chatter about the controversy on social media and craft clever, customized responses to the tweets about it, defending the Cap’n’s good name. The team expected the hubbub to blow over within a few days to a week and wanted to capitalize on the momentum as quickly as possible, in order to maximize the conversation and keep it going for as long as possible. The Cap’n’s response tweets to fans, media outlets and journalists caught the attention of both the Twittersphere and the mainstream media on a mind-blowing scale. Amid accusations from bloggers, journalists and the official U.S. Navy twitter account, KFC’s Colonel Sanders even tried to start a Twitter rumble with the Cap’n by implying he was a fraud. The Cap’n shut him down with a tweet: “You'll have to excuse me, I'm dealing with the @USNavy right now. No time for small potatoes. Or boneless chickens." The U.S. Navy heightened the controversy by tweeting and posting on their official blog, implying they had checked their enlistment records and Cap’n Crunch never served in the U.S. Navy (although, to be fair, he never claimed to have served in the U.S.). By monitoring social mentions around the clock, the Huge team playfully kept the conversation going with all of the influencers who engaged the Cap’n on Twitter. Once the conversation and media coverage had reached an international scope and appeared on several major national news outlets (including Good Morning America, Anderson Cooper 360 & The Colbert Report), the Huge team was able to work with the brand to allocate additional budget to produce an animated response video showing the Cap’n responding to the fraud claims. The team worked over the weekend to script, record and produce the response video to make sure it could go live before the hubbub died down. With the help of Olson, Quaker’s public relations agency, additional media outreach about the Cap’n’s official response was conducted, which resulted in an entirely new round of coverage that showed the response video on top-tier TV and online outlets around the country. The Cap’n’s viral uniform controversy has undoubtedly been the account’s greatest success to date, causing an international media firestorm both online and off. The Cap’n’s most popular response tweet received 558 retweets and 210 favorites. His response video, produced by Huge in just a couple of days, was viewed more than 53,000 times in less than a month with a very favorable like to dislike ratio. In a once-in-a-lifetime PR boom, the story generated more than 525 mainstream media mentions of the controversy in print, online, radio and television outlets, many of which quoted or showed screenshots of the Cap’n’s hilarious Twitter responses and/or the Cap’n’s response video. Coverage appeared on several top-tier national TV outlets, including The Colbert Report, Good Morning America (twice!), Late Night With Jimmy Fallon, Conan, The Tonight Show With Jay Leno, Anderson Cooper 360 and more. All told, the controversy resulted in more than 689 million mainstream media impressions and roughly 170 million social media impressions within just one month, resulting in an unprecedented, purely organic ROI of $0.05 CPM, with absolutely zero paid media.

Why does this entry deserve to win?

The Cap’n Crunch Show on YouTube: Uniform controversy post on Reddit: The Cap’n’s uniform controversy response video: The Cap’n’s most popular uniform controversy response tweet: Cap’n Crunch Facebook page: Twitter handle: Jimmy Fallon coverage of the Cap’n’s response video: GMA coverage of the Cap’n’s response video: Colbert video:


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