In-N-Out Burger Biggest Loser on Oscar Night

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The Academy Awards produced the latest missed opportunity in branded social media when a two-time Oscar winning director Ang Lee was tweeted chomping down on an In-N-Out Burger, his golden trophy in tow. The photo, taken by Vanity Fair’s Publisher Edward Menicheschi, was tagged #innoutburger and retweeted fewer than two dozen times. It was the perfect opportunity for a California burger icon to bask its brand in Oscar glow. Too bad In-N-Out’s last tweet was in June 2011.

In-N-Out Burger’s failure is worse than Poland Spring’s. Far worse. 

The pic of Ang Lee eating In-N-Out with his Oscar was copied and tweeted and posted by others. The most retweets was just over 350, from a post by movie writer R. Emmett Sweeney. Compare that to the 5,350-plus retweets of Marco Rubio’s State of the Union response Poland Spring water bottle or the 16,000-plus retweets of Oreo’s Super Bowl “dark” Tweet. In-N-Out’s Facebook page also failed to acknowledge the free gift handed to it—a fact that its Facebook fans pointed out on its page. [more]

While estimates are far from scientific, some have suggested that Poland Spring’s lack of quick action on its State of the Union opportunity cost it sales of up to $3 million.

In-N-Out can still capitalize. Poland Spring waited a whole day—and was rightfully abused for it—to catch on to its State of the Union fame. Eventually, the brand posted an attempt on its Facebook page, a lackluster effort that still managed over 6,100 likes.

In-N-Out faces a larger challenge though. Senator Rubio really did Poland Spring’s work for them, tweeting the bottle himself. Meanwhile, almost nobody knows about Ang Lee’s endorsement and the window of Oscar excitement is quickly closing, if it isn’t closed already. Making matters worse, those who do know about Lee’s burger moment have been tweeting at the @innoutburger Twitter account for the last day with no response.

But it gets worse.

In-N-Out is missing an even bigger—almost priceless—opportunity to connect with potential future customers in China, where Ang Lee’s win has been the top news the day after the awards. The fast food chain currently has no locations in Asia, but in the last couple of years, In-N-Out has been experimenting with one-day pop-up promotional locations. In Tokyo, the line was around the corner. In Singapore, a July 2012 sales event scheduled to last four hours was sold out in five minutes.

The social media failure is doubled when it comes to China’s huge micro-blogging platform Weibo. Several Weibo users have posted the picture of Lee eating In-N-Out, one of which has been forwarded over 4,700 times and another over 2,100 times. User Tjman posted the picture, begging In-N-Out to come to Shanghai. (“求 In-N-Out Burger来上海啊”).

In fact, In-N-Out has been to Shanghai. In late 2011, the chain hosted one of its pop-up promotions in China’s largest city where it is embroiled in a (sadly typical) legal battle with “Caliburger,” an In-N-Out knock-off that claims China trademarks for much of In-N-Out’s intellectual property.

In-N-Out could have responded to these posts, connecting its brand to the hugely popular Ang Lee in the minds of Chinese consumers and use the Oscar-winner’s implied endorsement to goose future Asia pop-ups. Alas, In-N-Out doesn’t even have a Weibo account. The user with the Weibo “In-N-Out” handle appears to be a young man in England.

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