Editor's Cut: Has the Internet killed kindness?
At minimum, it is the incubator of cynicism. Case in point: A young man named Matt Tribe bought an unlimited pasta pass from Olive Garden for $100 and decided to put those seven weeks of potential gluttony to work, delivering “Random Acts of Pasta.”
And then the Internet took over.
To summarize what Reddit users think of Tribe, his blog, his video and the entire issue: Marketers suck, and Olive Garden must burn in the pits of hell for using the Internet to deliver a promotional message. The video chronicling the events is simple “too professional” to be real. And Tribe himself is clearly a thief and charlatan who has been paid—by marketers—to ruin the world. Need proof? Just look at the embedded analytics link on the site…who cares if it is automatically added by the blog site? Oh, and those people who ate the pasta? They’re all actors…paid by marketers…who we have already determined are evil.
Get the drift?
Olive Garden even tried to quell the furor. They fully deny having any part in Tribe’s random acts of kindness. According to Olive Garden, they just received and cooked the orders. But for the social pitchfork-wielding crowd, these were more marketing lies.
Even if this were a marketing campaign by Olive Garden, was it really that horrific? Or was the problem that it wasn’t transparent? Had branded t-shirt-wearing servers taken to the streets and passed out pasta to one and all, would that have made a difference?
But what if a young man named Matt Tribe really was just delivering random acts of kindness? Well, the Internet certainly made sure he wouldn’t do it again! The lesson learned for marketers here is not necessarily that the Internet can be a mean, mean place to try and hold your own, but rather that it is filled with a crowd that demands more transparency and authenticity than ever.
We can take on great causes and work to change the world. We can use our brands to spread a little kindness. But if we do it in secret, or if we’re self-serving or overtly sneaky about it, then prepare to face the wrath of the crowd of Internet overlords who are deeply committed to sharing their own special cynicism and disdain.
We marketers might not be on a path to solving the great conspiracy crimes of the century—and we might not be heralding in an era of world peace—but maybe…just maybe…we can work to revive kindness. And who knows? Someday we might find a Reddit thread extolling the virtues of marketing and the wonderful experiences we deliver to the world. Yeah, okay…that was one step too far.