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How Pitbull Turned #Exile into Social Media Accolade

So maybe you heard about this: Earlier this year, rapper Armando Christian Perez, or “Pitbull”, partnered with Walmart and Energy Sheets in a social media campaign which took a turn for the worst. In June the trio announced a Facebook contest, in which the local Walmart store that received the most page “likes” would receive a personal visit from Pitbull so he could “share the experience of using Energy Sheets with [his] fans.

That’s when David Thorpe, writer for The Boston Phoenix and the off-color comedy site Something Awful, got wind of the promotion and hijacked the campaign by encouraging people to #ExilePitbull to a remote Walmart location on Kodiak Island, Alaska. The prank spread like wildfire season in the interior arctic, and by the conclusion of the contest, a city with a population of 6,000 incinerated the efforts of 4,000 other U.S. locations, achieving over 70,000 Facebook “likes.” 

Can’t you just feel the chest-wrenching heart palpitations the PR peeps must have endured when they first set eyes on David Thorpe’s initial “Exile Pitbull” blog post—each sentence a sarcastic, backhanded jab at every element of their campaign. He must have been trying to get people fired, because it’s merciless.

So what was his big issue with Walmart using a hip-hop star to promote a product on Facebook? As he told The Associated Press, it wasn’t anything against Pitbull. His issue was with whole pseudo-social, corporate-driven online promo, where both organizers and participants mindlessly go through the motions, just so that the company can report back such-and-such increase in social media engagement, and the consumer can have the thrill of following their little carrot on a string. Got to admit, he makes a good point.

By mid-July, the online public has spun the campaign in a way that was never intended. Kodiak more than fulfills the contest requirements and the unlikely cross-promo trio has to decide how they will respond.

This is where the campaign takes yet another unexpected turn. 

[video:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q4DrFBkl1yc&feature=plcp 433x300]

Walmart announces Kodiak as the winner, Pitbull releases a YouTube video expressing his excitement about visiting his Alaskan fans, and Thorpe is extended an invitation to join Pitbull in an unparalleled journey to the Last Frontier.

Thorpe accepted, and if you look at his Twitter feed from the event, he came out in the end as one of the campaign’s most influential advocates.

[video:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RSJkb-PTXJs&feature=plcp 433x300]

Soon after, Pitbull’s team released this YouTube video with footage from his Kodiak premier, and if you check out the comments, the response is overwhelmingly positive:

“Instead of backing out of the trip, as it was an obvious prank, he actually went to Kodiak and embraced it. He handled the getting pranked very well by following through and making it a great time for all involved. Good on him”

“I admit, I voted to send him to Alaska, and laughed. I genuinely don't think this could have worked out better for him. Complete respect for the dude following it through. Good story all round.”

“Not a huge fan of his music, but Pitbull gets my total respect for going through with this. Yeah it was hilarious that sending him to Alaska started off as a joke. But look how awesome it turned out! All those people seemed so happy ... He's such a nice guy!”

As in any other sector, people in the multifamily industry can attest to social media’s complete inability to be tamed by any force or power. Whether it be Facebook, YouTube, or ratings and reviews, we’re continually open to become the next object of online social backlash—regardless of our existing online presence or participation.

But were there ever to be learned a lesson from a man who was taken to court by Lindsay Lohan, it is this: Authenticity prevails. Pitbull took an ugly situation, and turned it around a full 180 all by being real with his audience and creating personal connections with the people who mattered most in the given circumstances.

How have you seen the value of authenticity evidenced at your offices? How do you think our industry could stand to be more “real” with renters?

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What a great story!

  Brent Williams

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