The power of a celebrity to make or break a product has never been stronger than in today’s world when our stars are far more accessible than ever, with their lives, their choices, their affections and rage laid bare 24/7 before our eyes.
We are all too familiar of course with the ‘Oprah effect’ – the power of the American media mogul to shift products with a single endorsement. Lover them or loath them, there is also no denying the Kardashian effect, the Kardashian/Jenners making everything they post about on social media – including their own merchandise – fly off the shelves.
The downside of course is for every brand that wins there is a loser, as Snap Inc. has recently found out after wrong-footing not one but two celebrities. Not only did the social platform get publicly shamed by one of its erstwhile super-fans, Kylie Jenner, which some claim was the cause of the 6% fall in shares and $1.3bn loss in value, it also recently fell foul of Rihanna too.
Rihanna who is credited as the savvy innovator behind Fenty Beauty, among the top 25 inventions of 2017 by Time magazine which raked in a whopping $72m within a month of its debut. One of the best-selling music artists of all time, with 230 million records sold worldwide and the youngest solo artist to earn fourteen number-one singles on the Billboard Hot 100, ranked the fourth most powerful celebrity by Forbes. Basically a powerhouse of a woman who should not be crossed, which Snap Inc. found out to the tune of $1 billion.
When cultural historians look back through the annals at 2018 – thousands of years from now – they will recall it as the year where, sadly, the Donald presidency is still in its infancy, and the Syrian war rages on into its eighth year, Kardashians are on a quest to populate the world with brown people, #metoo has become a juggernaut of a movement beyond Hollywood, Snapchat said “me too” and joined the ranks of Pepsi, H&M, and countless others with an ill-advised marketing decision and Rihanna snapped the social platform’s flailing fortunes with a single post.
The billion dollar question was: “Would You Rather slap Rihanna or punch Chris Brown?” for a distasteful ad for “Would You Rather?”
Fans recoiled due to the former couple’s history: Brown pleaded guilty to assaulting Rihanna while they were dating in 2009. Snap Inc. snapped into action, pulling the ad and issuing a statement which admitted the ad was “disgusting” – but not before Riri snapped back – of all place – on rival Instagram with a scathing response.
After all, this here is the queen of social media slay who slammed MTV with no “f$%ks to give”, taunted Ciara with her lack of stage bookings and imagined Celebuzz to have genitals and went on to further insult celebrity news portal.
“Now SNAPCHAT I know you already know you ain’t my fav app out there! But I’m just trying to figure out what the point was with this mess! I’d love to call it ignorance, but I know you ain’t that dumb!” the singer said on Instagram on Thursday. …
This isn’t about my personal feelings, cause I don’t have much of them…but all the women, children and men that have been victims of [domestic violence] in the past and especially the ones who haven’t made it out yet …you let us down! Shame on you. Throw the whole app-oligy away.”
Despite pulling the ad and issuing a statement, shares of Snap Inc. took a tumble last Thursday resulting in a market value loss of $800 million as Riri fans took her post as a directive to delete the ad.
Created by a third party site or not, the ad should never have made it on to the app and the blame is solely with the decision makers at Snap Inc. Moreover, there are three major reasons that make this more of a gargantuan gaffe for Snap.
Firstly, the decision makers should have known better. This is not a new start-up by techie boys that can’t see beyond the size of their manhood to appreciate common sense and more importantly common decency. This here is a social media behemoth worth $25bn, its founder Evan Spiegel worth an estimated $3.8 billion, admittedly now 150 million less than what he was worth a couple of weeks ago, all thanks to Riri.
Secondly, of course not a single day of the year is the right time for this sort of ad, and domestic abuse victims are not only women, but whoever thought it was acceptable to approve this ad trivialising domestic violence and mocking its victims just the week after we celebrated women worldwide must have something intrinsically wrong with their sense of judgement.
Finally, in the aftermath of the February brouhaha over the app updates diehard fans were not best pleased with, one would think those in power at Snap Inc. would practise caution.
Once the rising star of the social media scene, despite its sketchy sexting app history, with competition from Facebook, Instagram and Whatsapp stories, Snap is no longer the only game in town for funny filters, flippant live updates and exhibitionist aspirations of today’s millennials. And to upset Riri of all people in such a time of uncertainty? Snap had better snap out of it.
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