Be “super-human” or else: Twitter, lingerie and the quest to engage

It probably seemed like a good idea at the time. A clever hashtag. A tweet. And then faster than you can say RT it all comes unstuck.

I am of course talking about Kayser Lingerie and the somewhat infamous #kaysermaleinsider tweets. But it was one in particular that really sent things off the rails:

@kayserlingerie: #KayserMaleInsider If a guys invites you over to watch a movie, you should know what they’re expecting.

Cue social media pile on and condemnation in 3…2…1. There are more than a few articles and blogs that go into detail dissecting the intent, ramifications and response. No need for me to add further to that.

But the issue triggered a deeper question that I want to talk about.

Aren’t corporations made up of people, and if we want to be able to have “conversations” with those people shouldn’t we allow that they are in fact human and will make mistakes?

It was this very issue that I found myself discussing with my friend Peter Tunjic, a lawyer and corporate advocate, over lunch yesterday. And his point is one well worth considering. We say we want our corporations to be more human, and then roundly condemn them when they show themselves to be just that.

It seems that in fact what many actually want is corporations to be “super-human”. Making no mistakes. Communicating perfectly every time. All-knowing about what people want and don’t want (even when we can’t tell them what that is).

Social media exposes this hypocrisy under the veil of so-called transparency. But the result is a kind of tyranny. Be transparent, but be perfect. Or else.

A couple of things to point out here.

The tweet wasn’t actually made by a Kayser employee, but by an intern at the agency who Kayser outsources it’s social media to. Not an excuse but a relevant detail and a point of caution for people who are outsourcing their organisation’s social media conversations to think carefully about.

Kayser did post an apology and the offending tweet was quickly deleted (although on Twitter nothing is really ever deleted, captured and RT’d in perpetuity).

I was one of the #outraged who rushed to judgement and jumped on Kayser for the tweet, labelling it the first example of social media “brandicide” of 2013 – I don’t think I’ll be doing that in the future.

So rather than writing a cautionary tale for organisations about the stupidity and potential damage to their brand of a rogue or thoughtless tweet, I find myself looking in the mirror and not necessarily liking what I see.

If I want organisations (and the people who comprise them) to keep their promises. To make promises they can keep. To be authentic and make decisions that are in alignment with who they say they are and what they say they stand for…

If I want all those things and to be able to have a conversation with the organisation, then I also have to allow that, at times, the people of the organisation won’t be “super-human”. That, at times, despite best efforts, a decision (or a tweet) will get through. That maybe it isn’t a reflection of the whole organisation (or the “brand”) being stupid or out of alignment or showing their true colours.

Maybe it was just a “human” moment that deserves our forgiveness, not our condemnation. After all – we’ve all been there.

See you next week.

Michel is an independent brand advocate dedicated to helping organisations make promises they can keep and keep the promises they make – with a strong, resilient organisation as the result. She also publishes a blog at You can follow Michel on Twitter @michelhogan.


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