Barbie’s bid to close the ‘dream gap,’ the perils of commenting on Hong Kong, and viral whisky ‘Tide pod’ gets jeers

Also: Kroger and Walgreens stop selling e-cigarettes, what drives consumer purchases, McDonald’s offers a ‘McRib locator,’ and more.

Good morning, PR pros:

With legal battles making headlines, Mattel has made a judicious—and judicial—choice for its Barbie Career of the Year doll:

Mattel partnered with GoFundMe to raise money for three nonprofits supporting female empowerment: She’s The First, Step Up and She Should Run.

Lisa McKnight, Barbie’s senior vice president and global brand general manager, told USA Today that the career was selected after the company learned that only 33% of sitting U.S. state judges are female:

“Barbie has had over 200 careers,” global head of Barbie Lisa McKnight told USA TODAY. “We like to say, ‘There isn’t a plastic ceiling that Barbie hasn’t broken.’ “

How can you and your organization get involved with “closing the dream gap,” as Mattel aims to do? Share your thoughts with us under the hashtag #MorningScoop.

Here are today’s top stories:

Blizzard, Vans, ‘South Park’ and more grapple with Hong Kong protests

As the NBA’s PR crisis with China intensifies, other organizations have entered the fray.

Activation Blizzard is facing backlash after it suspended videogame player Chung “Bitzchung” Ng Wai for a year, rescinded his prize money and removed him from a top-tier competition after he said, “Liberate Hong Kong” during a post-match interview. Blizzard also purportedly fired the two interviewers.

As the news trends on Twitter, Blizzard has met with outrage, including tweets such as this:

In its annual competition, Vans removed a design that referenced the Hong Kong protesters, and the removal promptly stoked criticism. Vans issued a statement on its Hong Kong Facebook page, saying that even though it’s “open to everyone,” it has “never taken a political position and therefore review[s] designs to ensure they are in line with [its] company’s long-held values of respect and tolerance”:

Vans一直鼓勵創意表達,而舉辦Custom Culture比賽旨在貫徹品牌精神,支持與連結世界各地的創作者,並期望他們及一眾參與者能利用此平台共同宣揚創意及正面的信息。…

Posted by Vans on Friday, October 4, 2019

Though Blizzard, Vans and the NBA are all trying to sidestep angering Chinese authorities, “South Park” creators took a different tack.

The New York Times reported:

Whereas the N.B.A. has struggled to respond to the geopolitical fracas, the creators of “South Park” appeared to relish the fight. The show’s creators, Trey Parker and Matt Stone, put out a fake apology on Monday, poking fun at the N.B.A. while insulting Xi Jinping, China’s president.

“Like the N.B.A., we welcome the Chinese censors into our homes and into our hearts,” the tongue-in-cheek statement read. “We too love money more than freedom and democracy. Xi doesn’t look just like Winnie the Pooh at all.”

Why it matters: For most organizations, speaking out on political and social issues comes only after a risk assessment. However, brand managers increasingly are facing the tough decision to potentially lose the huge Chinese consumer market or face growing criticism from consumers in the United States and other countries. It’s a tough position without a PR best practice, as most organizations don’t have the luxury of alienating China’s huge consumer group to take a stand.

Related reading:


What drives consumers to buy? The most effective tool for brand managers is the referral from a friend or family member.

That’s what the results say in Brandwatch’s recent report:

That means it is crucial to solicit reviews of your product and source user-generated content to help drive interaction and provide credibility for your organization.

To learn more, read the full report.

Twitter users snark over whisky ‘Tide pod’

Scotch whisky brand The Glenlivet caused a stir after it introduced its drink in capsule form:

Twitter users quickly ridiculed the marketing move:

However, The Glenlivet is taking its response—and the trending hashtag #ScotchPod—stirred, not shaken:

Why you should care: The adage “all publicity is good publicity” is terrible PR advice, but embracing a quirky marketing move to stoke conversation isn’t a bad idea. If you debut such a product or campaign, let the naysayers’ criticism roll off you as headlines stack up.

Related reading:


McDonald’s McRib is back, and the fast-food chain has turned to social media to beef pork up the sandwich’s buzz. Along with the hashtag #McRibSZN, McDonald’s launched an online McRib locator and offered 16 GIFs that Instagram users can place in their Instagram Stories:

The efforts underline the importance of encouraging passionate fans of your products and services to post their stories across social media. McDonald’s is hoping to replicate the success of Popeyes’ viral chicken sandwich.

Walgreens and Krogers stop selling e-cigarettes

 The pharmacy and grocery store chains announced their decision Monday. CVS told USA Today in August that it never sold e-cigarettes.

 Why you should care: As more studies on the dangers of vaping are released, organizations are keen to distance themselves from the crisis Juul and others are facing. The monetary loss taken by not selling the devices is outweighed by the boost in brand reputation and consumer trust.

Related reading:


We asked how you handle negative comments online, and 62% of you said you respond to the unhappy consumer publicly. Only 21% said you don’t respond at all:

Responding to a negative review online or criticism through a social media platform can repair a broken relationship with the unhappy party and show others that you’re ready to provide customer service. However, that doesn’t mean you should respond to all negativity, especially if you determine that it’s coming from a someone trolling your brand.


What’s standing in the way of your PR campaign’s success?

Share your struggles and how you’re overcoming them with the hashtag #MorningScoop.

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One Response to “Barbie’s bid to close the ‘dream gap,’ the perils of commenting on Hong Kong, and viral whisky ‘Tide pod’ gets jeers”

    Tim OBrien says:

    This part of the piece jumped out at me and concerns me with regard to people being punished for speaking out for Hong Kong: “It’s a tough position without a PR best practice, as most organizations don’t have the luxury of alienating China’s huge consumer group to take a stand.”

    I heard this early on in my PR career and have embraced it: “A principle isn’t a principle until it costs you something to uphold it.”

    My point is, we talk a lot in PR about ethics, core values, principles. We like to think of ourselves as favoring human rights and standing up against oppressors and those who abuse human rights. This situation is an opportunity for the PR profession. The truth is, any time an organization was willing to sacrifice for a core value, it provide a best practice for us here. That said, I’d respectfully reject the notion that there aren’t any best practices. There are if you have the courage to look, and you are willing to sacrifice for a core value.

    Tim OBrien says:

    I should have included this in my other post, but…recent case studies are Dick’s Sporting Goods and other retailers who scaled back on gun sales to take a stance on the gun issue.