Sunday, February 28, 2010
Go Max Go! Use Twitter to Ruin Your Brand Equity!
The week of February 15th, I reviewed a set of four candy bars on Candy Blog from the company called Go Max Go Foods: Mahalo, Buccaneer, Twilight & Jokerz. They’re vegan versions of popular candy bars - no dairy, no hydrogenated oils, no animal products and all natural. I bought them at Whole Foods back in January and took photos of them and posted them within the review. (I also reviewed two other vegan candy bars - one before and one after that set - it was an unofficial vegan week.)
Some I liked and some I didn’t. I took issue with the use of palm oil instead of real cocoa butter, the fact that they were three times the price of a regular candy bar, and the taste profile was overall too sweet. The review results ranged from 4 out of 10 to 6 out of 10.
I reviewed them at the request of a reader. I like to make sure I have something to offer all my readers - especially those with special dietary restrictions. The posts didn’t get much traffic or comments, no biggie.
On Friday, February 26th. someone identified as “susan” left a comment on the review of the Jokerz Bar (a vegan version of a Snickers):
The email address associated with the comment (visible only to me as the blog owner) was from the domain of the candy maker itself. My commenting policy clearly states that sock puppets are not tolerated and will be outed. As I was responding to that comment, susan left similar comments on all the reviews.
(Link to Mahalo review.)
I didn’t want to assume that it was a sock puppet, since a commenter can leave any address, there’s no verification process. First, I tried to respond to the email address to verify that she was a representative of the company - what I learned while waiting for a response was that she had also twittered from the official account of the company:
I considered that verification that this was a true representative and published my response calling her out in my comments area of the site. I responded there with a Tweet to my followers pointing to her Tweet to me:
Within that time she posted two more times on Twitter, this time not replies but original tweets with links to my reviews:
It’s not the first time I’ve had a sock puppet on the blog. Heck, it’s not even the 10th time. I’ve had candy makers themselves comment on my posts as well - on both the raves and the pans. (I don’t consider giving a candy a 6 out of 10 a pan, I consider it a good candy, just not one I personally plan to keep buying but likely to be someone’s favorite.) But this was definitely a first for me where the company tried to rally support for the their product after a perceived bad review. (Candy Blog has been around longer than Twitter or the use of Facebook by companies.) The comments that followed, some apparently arriving via her tweet link, were clear, cogent and both positive about the product itself and negative. Some were from regular readers of my blog, some were not people who had commented before.
As if the comments and the initial posts on Twitter weren’t bad enough, the train wreck continued as she engaged the Candy Blog followers.
You can reread the whole thing here as a screengrab of the Twitter conversations.
My followers started checking out what @GoMaxGoFoods was saying and replied. @GoMaxGoFoods started replying to them, often insulting them and ranting about how someone who doesn’t like fake fur or fake meat shouldn’t be reviewing vegan candy.
And this one:
And the last one of note:
The strange part is that @GoMaxGoFoods had some interesting points hidden in those tweets and the comments.
I took issue with the use of mockolate (replacing cocoa butter with palm oil) for two reasons. One, mockolate doesn’t taste good. Two, palm oil isn’t forest-friendly - which is apparently something important to people who are vegans because they don’t believe in harming animals. (I don’t know how the health vegans feel.) Eventually she said that they used sustainably grown palm oil and that real chocolate made with rice milk was not stable enough to be used to cover candy bars. (I pointed out that if its sustainable palm oil, that should be noted on the website at the very least. She agreed.)
I did a little more reading on the company, most of what I found out that wasn’t quotes from their official website on blogs or webstores was from this article from the Daily Vanguard from November 2009. The founders of the company are noted as Scott Ostrander and Susan Francovig. The article says:
I guess she changed her mind about the nonvegans.
The stupid part was how fixated she was on my statement that I didn’t like faux fur or fake meat. I can only assume that she thought that meant that actually liked the real thing - which is quite clear to regular readers. I haven’t eaten red meat in 23 years. (No I am not currently a vegan, mostly because I like gummi bears and real cream caramels too much).
For the record, I’ve reviewed hundreds of candies that are considered vegan. I don’t treat them any different because they have special rules.
UPDATE 11/30/2012: Go Max Go is currently under recall in Canada due to some labeling issues. They use shared equipment with dairy products, yet advertise their products as dairy free. (More from Vancouver’s Straight.com.) The Go Max Go Twitter feed is again saying abusive things, this time to a customer (Meagan H) who said she had a reaction.
UPDATE 4/24/2013: The FDA announced a voluntary recall by Go Max Go for labeling issues.
Bars include: Snap!, Cleo’s, Jokerz, Twilight, Buccaneer, Mahalo and Thumbs Up.
The issue comes down to the front of package saying that the products are dairy free, but the actual products are made on shared equipment with dairy products, so it is possible they could contain traces of dairy. That is labeled on the back of the package underneath the ingredients list, at least the ones that I’ve seen.
During November it's all about me writing a novel. Sometimes it's about whalewatching. You know, and then there's other stuff.