The Word: Uzzi unceremoniously meets “Arfica”
by Mongezi Mtati (@Mongezi) Two brands recently took centre stage to add some unintentional yet much-needed humour to South Africa’s social web. The reactions (or lack thereof) of Uzzi and Cricket South Africa (CSA) made conversations spread through social media timelines — with different outcomes for both brands.
During the recent outbreak of xenophobic violence, the murderous attack on Emmanuel Sithole in Alexandra township made news headlines, capturing the attention of local and international media. A photograph of the attackers stabbing Sithole even made the front page of the Sunday Times.
On Tuesday, 21 April 2015, Sithole’s attackers appeared in court, two of them donned in Uzzi-branded hoodies. The social web went viral with mentions of the brand and its unceremonious appearance in court, which was perceived as being the fashion statement of those who find themselves on the wrong side of the law and the perpetrators of violent acts in Alexandra.
This spread of conversation, from the court to the fingertips of the masses, was a little less than unforgiving and, in part, added some entertainment to timelines. Judgement for Uzzi continued as more people caught on to the conversations, with about five updates coming up every hour seven days later when I checked.
Comments by the public ranged from how one gets a criminal record with their receipt when buying Uzzi clothing to general mentions of how the brand had been unfortunate that day. On the face of it, the detractors were more vocal than the brand, with some curious as to how Uzzi would handle the matter, and the brand became a trending topic on the social web for at least two days.
The only official mention that surfaced in defence of Uzzi, during research, was by Truworths, which acquired Uzzi in 2006. The clothing retail store posted a Facebook updated about how Uzzi is against all forms of crime and xenophobia. Its Facebook community then expressed its distaste of the brand’s association with crime and the wave of violence that some parts of the social web were talking about.
Overall, it seemed as if Uzzi did not make a strong enough appearance or release a strong public statement while the social web was ripping the brand apart.
CSA’s Arfica mishap
Meanwhile, CSA had announced its Africa T20 competition for African cricket teams who would compete in SA. In an attention-grabbing moment, a misspelling of Africa on the competition logo appeared on the podium and various branding material at the media launch, turning attention away from the intended message.
“Arfica” became a trending word that led to a series of mentions which CSA could have ignored. Instead, CSA was a good sport, adding to the hilarity with the following tweet: “We apologize for the oversight on the #AfricaT20Cup logo. We’re glad we could provide you with a good (l)arf though…”
In conclusion, it is understandable that the two instances were handled differently by the two brands in question.
The CSA seized the opportunity to be more human and engage in a way that led to more positive conversations concerning its brand. Some media even published the light-hearted apology.
Xenophobia is a far more serious issue than a misspelled logo, though, and it was harder for Uzzi to respond, and the brand’s evident inaction fuelled the negative attention. Had the brand interacted more with its existing supporters and started more conversations against crime, violence and xenophobia, it could have mobilised the community positively and the watching media would have reported this — it was already the centre of conversation without lifting a finger to build a campaign.
Mongezi Mtati (@Mongezi) is the founding MD of WordStart (www.wordstart.co.za). Apart from being a kiteboarding and sandboarding adventurer, Mongezi connects companies and brands with measurable word-of-mouth. He contributes the monthly “The Word” column on word-of-mouth marketing and social media strategy to MarkLives.
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