02/05/2015 11:50 am ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Could a Small Business Pull a Totino's Super Bowl Stunt?


We all know by now that the Super Bowl is just as much about the ads as it is about the football. Across the board, brands are striving to stand out by taking different risks and making bolder moves with each passing year -- both on the TV screen and on the Internet. With all of these risks being taken, there's bound to be some flops in the bunch (everyone is still depressed over Nation Wide's reminder that children die). Then there's Totino's, who posted all of their scheduled game day "real-time" tweets a whole day before the Super Bowl. Though, there has been some speculation on the matter.

Was the early release staged?

Totino's has a reputation of being a little on the silly side. Their brand is loose, casual, and, so it seems, sarcastic. With hashtags like #sparts and #sportshappenings, you can easily see why a reader would interpret the "live tweeting" as a way to make fun of the Super Bowl itself. Could not-so-accidentally coming out with the tweets a day early be an even bigger jab at not just the super bowl, but the ad hype surrounding the day as well? It's definitely possible; it just seems pretty meta for a pizza roll company.

The other possibility being: some social media intern messed up and scheduled the tweets to go out a day early. Which only makes the brand look sloppy and unauthentic. The entire point of real-time tweeting is to tweet... in real time. Tweeting along with the Super Bowl is a smart move for a brand; lots of people are looking to Twitter for fun and interesting input about the game and commercials so it's a good opportunity to gather some new followers. The difference between a great brand and an okay brand can be found in the authentic way they interact with their followers. Reacting to actual moments in the game would have proved to be much more authentic than vague reactions that could have been applied to any Super Bowl game.

Either way, mishap or not, the company's been receiving some negative backlash.

It all depends on if we trust Totino's to know their own audience.

If their audience includes the type to poke fun at sports in general and, especially the biggest sports institution imaginable, the Super Bowl, then the assumption that the tweets were staged is highly likely (in the name of #StickingItToTheMan).

If their audience, instead, includes any and everyone that simply gets a kick out of a silly talking pizza bite, then it can be safe to assume that the early tweet release was indeed a mistake.

Knowing your audience is a huge part of marketing. It would be strange for a brand as large as Totino's to be unaware of who their market audience is. Then again, maybe it's so big that they just don't care.

Here's what we can take away from the possible mistake:

As I mentioned above, knowing your target market is extremely important when it comes to marketing. It can make the difference between an embarrassing mistake and a special shout out to your true fans.

But even once you've defined your target market, for a small business, being as inclusive as Totino's potentially was is never a good idea. Even with the nature of their regularly scheduled tweets poking fun at the game of football, they could lose some previous Totino's fans who are also huge football fans. As a small business owner, know your audience, but make a point to be welcoming to people of all walks of life.

Secondly, get rid of the way of thinking that "even bad press is press." A huge brand like Totino's is going to survive something like this -- they can afford the risk and/or the mistake. But one horrible bad press move from a small business could convince an entire community to be turned off from your brand. Totino's can stand to lose a few hundred followers, but that kind of damage would hit a small business a lot harder.