Storm in a (Yorkshire) teacup

Rishi Sunak, Member of the British Parliament and Chancellor of the Exchequer (Finance Minister, in Indian terms)… and the son-in-law of ‘Infosys’ N.R.Narayana Murthy, tweeted about having tea recently. The tweet included a large pack of the tea, with the brand name clearly seen and mentioned in the tweet too!

Is Yorkshire Tea his favorite brand? Or, something his office buys frequently? I have no clue.

An Indian equivalent – imagine Nirmala Sitharaman tweeting the same, with a big pack of, say… Brooke Bond Red Label tea in the photo and her tweet.

What happened next?

Given the background involved, (Rishi is from the Tory party and hence a supporter of Brexit. Due to his position, he is also expected to help the Brexit process actively) things went completely awry for the brand!

To unleash their anger on Brexit and the Tories, people start posting boycott calls for the tea brand!

This is funny in the Indian context because all brand boycott calls in India happen only for someone not in the ruling party!

The brand tried humor to explain their stand… that they were in no way involved in this tweet promotion and it simply just happened.

That did not help the brand and they were pummelled all through the weekend.

Finally, they tweeted a series of heart-rending points, closing it with the fact that there is a human at the other end and requesting people to be kind.

Now, all this is par for the course on Indian Twitter where brands and movies get boycotted week after week, regardless of how many humans are behind any of them. In fact, the more the humans, the better the damage, is the usual intent on Twitter, the world over.

Boycotting a tea brand is an easy thing to do. There are enough brands to choose from and the price of switching is literally nothing (unlike say a relationship with a bank or a telecom service provider). And even if some people do stop buying one brand now they may eventually buy it again later. So, I really don’t think there is any long-term impact on the brand.

But in the short-term, the tea brand wanted to quell the notion that it had a promotional tie-up with a politician. And there was no way to do that to the scores of people tweeting all over that weekend. The brand tried it individually and then gave up that process given the swelling numbers.

I wonder what else they could have done. Perhaps a promoted tweet (explaining their stand in an interesting/humorous way) campaign that weekend alone (and the next 2 days) targeting people in the UK with the keyword ‘tea’?

Or, a ‘request’ to Rishi Sunak himself to let his followers know that this wasn’t out of any formal association? That is a tough, risky ask, I understand.

Another option – this is unconventional and counter-intuitive: request a few well-known people from the other side (of the political spectrum) to showcase a large bag of Yorkshire Tea to balance the buzz scale?

Anyway, matters to came a close 4 days later through the person who started it all! This is Rishi’s tweet on February 25th.

I’d give him marks for chutzpah 🙂

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