The Issue: The AMP app profiles 24 types of women, from "Cougar" and "Athlete" to "Out of Your League" and "Married."
Each profile provides unfortunate content including pickup lines and other information to help the user "score." It also has a brag function which allows users to promote and share their efforts via email, Facebook or Twitter. The app states: "Get lucky? Add her to your Brag List. You can include a name, date and whatever details you remember."
"Our app tried 2 show the humorous lengths guys go 2 pick up women. We apologize if it’s in bad taste & appreciate your feedback. #pepsifail"
Whether or not it's a genuine apology, it's smart because it:
* acknowledges the issue
* addresses the issue where the conversation is taking place vs. on the company's web site
* uses the #pepsifail tag to ensure the apology reaches the right people on Twitter. While some feel they should distance themselves from Pepsi, I highly doubt that's even remotely possible.
But AMP has done nothing else. And by not removing the app from the iTunes store, the amount of ill will for the AMP brand and for Pepsi has snowballed.
The Brand: It's obvious and understandable why people are offended by this app. I downloaded it to write this post and will be removing it promptly. But it bears noting that, if nothing else, it appears to be on brand. I'm not the target audience. Disclosure: Starbucks is the only energy drink I consume and have been happily married for more than 11 years.
But the site, including the Yo Mamma Slam and extreme sports sponsorships, seems to be geared to the same target audience. While AMP takes a slightly different approach, it reminds me of the positioning around Axe grooming products.
The Strategy: The brand claims the app is a lighthearted attempt at humor vs. a misogynistic tool. But the concept and a variety of details in the app are a bit over the top. AMP knew it was competing with 76,000 other apps in the iTunes store. It even created a YouTube video riffing off the Apple "There's an app for that" commercials to promote it. AMP knew it needed to push the envelope to stand out. Perhaps they planned for controversy to fuel that promotion. Mission accomplished.
The Hypocrisy: If AMP had pulled the app, I can already see pundits like myself saying that AMP over-reacted to a Twitter mob mentality. Motrin received a similar rap when it responded quickly to a negative response one of its ads received online. AMP acknowledged the situation, something other brands don't always do, and they moved on.
We criticize brands for not responding online. Do we also get to criticize them when we feel they haven't responded to the degree of our expectations or even exceeded those expectations? Every "social media expert" shaking their head to the affirmative as they read this might also want to consider the cost to develop an iPhone app and then shelve it.
The Bottom Line: Does Motrin Moms set up the expectation that brands must instantly go to extremes when negative conversations first pop up? Perhaps, but I think Motrin Moms did so because its target audience was up in arms – the very consumers they’re trying to get buy their product. And, while I agree that the app is in poor taste, this does not appear to be a similar case.
I'm impressed by brands that use Twitter to monitor the conversation and respond as quickly as possible. But at the risk of increasing ire, I'm not sure AMP should remove the app. I think this is a new wrinkle. Brands might not be able to do everything we want. Or they simply might not be willing to do everything we want -- when we're not the target consumer.
We’re certainly reinforcing AMPs stance by drawing even more attention and Google juice to the application. That’s the real energy drink fueling this conversation.
AMP assumed its app would be ignored during the concepting stage. They designed it to get attention. Perhaps the lesson is that the proper response from Twitter, and consumers like me, is to do the exact opposite of our reaction up to this point. We should move from outrage to silence.