Behind the Tweet: @JCPenney’s #TweetingWithMittens

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

They were the typos seen ‘round the Twittersphere on Super Bowl Sunday: Within minutes of kick-off this year, @JCPenney had football fans, big brands and media alike buzzing over some glaring misspellings on Twitter.


Here’s the story behind that Tweet, and key lessons straight from JCPenney’s director of social and mobile, Sean Ryan.

Our Tweets got more RTs than anything we have ever done on Twitter. Our week-over-week mittens sales also doubled!


@SeanWRyan on the Super Bowl strategy:

Twitter allows us to show a lighter, sometimes edgier side of the brand. A great example was the recent back and forth we had with Kmart. That could never happen on any platform other than Twitter.


We knew everyone would be watching the social space during the Super Bowl and we wanted to create a narrative that felt unexpected. Since we’re not a sports news channel, snack or beverage company, we wanted to find our own way to talk about the game and not compete with other brands trying create their own “social media moment.”

#TweetingWithMittens felt like an authentic, on-brand way for us to participate in the conversation. With the game taking place outdoors in cold weather, we thought it could be a fun way to promote our Go USA mittens and partnership with the United States Olympic Committee, especially with the Olympics just around the corner.


We did quite a bit of preparation work up front: getting the campaign cleared by the USOC, approving images and messaging ahead of time, and coordinating with a variety of teams including customer care, media relations and legal. We share our high-level Twitter content strategy each week, and over time, have built a high level of trust internally. That was invaluable for this campaign.

We discussed that there would be a lot of speculation — ranging from people thinking some intern tweeted from the wrong account to someone hacking the account. And yes, we thought some people might think our tweeter had enjoyed a few too many since it was the Super Bowl. But that certainly wasn’t our goal.

On game day:

After putting out the first misspelled Tweet, we instantly saw it getting noticed. But things really took off when @AdAge commented and other brands started tweeting at us. We watched the conversation carefully as people tried to guess the reason for the typos. We watched the “drunk” narrative building, which certainly wasn’t our intention.


We tweeted one more time to gauge the narrative before showing our hand. Once that Tweet went viral, we decided we’d hit the peak of conversation.


We’d originally planned to tweet through the four quarters, but ultimately, we pulled back sooner to minimize any negative brand associations. It was phenomenal to see how quickly the reach of that message spread: it was only 24 minutes from our first typo-ridden Tweet to our reveal.


As planned, we actually rewarded some Twitter users with pairs of the Go USA mittens who figured it all out before our reveal.

On the lessons learned:

Twitter is unlike any other marketing medium. We were able to spark massive awareness in a simple, seamless way that anyone could follow in 140 characters. We went in with a plan and with a guess of how people would respond, but were able to easily adjust on the fly.

When the overriding conversation on Twitter became that we were “tweeting drunk,” we were able to be nimble and reveal the #TweetingWithMittens hashtag earlier than planned. As with anything groundbreaking you do, we did risk some negative attention. You have to be prepared for that. Not everyone is going to love it. That’s all a part of shifting brand perception — one Tweet at a time.

On the success:

Our goal was to get the most people to pay attention to our brand while providing second screen entertainment during the game. From an awareness and engagement standpoint, it was mission accomplished.

Our #TweetingWithMittens Tweets got more RTs than anything we have ever done on Twitter. And thousands of new followers, plus major news media coverage. Our week-over-week mittens sales also doubled in the week following the game!

Ultimately, our Tweets during the Super Bowl put us in the national spotlight in a way that showed we had social guts and that we weren’t doing what every other brand was trying to do. The campaign also proved that social media can be just as powerful at changing brand perception as multi-million dollar ad buys.