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The Parable of the Giraffe Bread (involving Tigers, A British Supermarket, and a 3-year-old called Lily)

by David Masters · 0 comments

It’s all too easy to talk about listening, engagement and customer service on social media. But what do those words really mean?

Here’s a heartwarming story, and when you read it, all those words will start to make sense.

(The story also involves the favorite word of social media marketers: viral).

In May 2011, three-and-a-half year old Lily Robinson wrote a letter to the British supermarket, Sainsbury’s.

Dear Sainssssssssssssssssssbbbbbbbbbbbbbbbburyys,

she wrote

Why is tiger bread called tiger bread? It should be called giraffe bread.

Love from Lily Robinson age 3 1/2

(Tiger bread is the British name for Dutch crunch).

Sainsbury’s customer service manager Chris King wrote back:

I think renaming tiger bread giraffe bread is a brilliant idea – it looks much more like the blotches on a giraffe than the stripes on a tiger, doesn’t it?

It is called tiger bread because the first baker who made it a looong time ago thought it looked a bit stripey like a tiger. Maybe they were a bit silly.

Lily’s Mom, Lucy, posted a photo of King’s letter to her blog.

The story went viral on social media, including a Facebook campaign to rename Tiger Bread as Giraffe Bread. The campaign totted up over 1,000 likes and 14,000 shares.

Sainsbury’s relented to the pressure, and the story made HuffPostUK and BBC News.

Social Media Lessons

  • Be Human.

As Chris King, who wrote the reply to Lily, said:

“When I wrote the letter I imagined what I would think if it was my kid, or someone I knew, and wanted them to get a nice reply. It’s a positive story that folks seem to have appreciated and wanted to share.”

  • Notice opportunities.

Sainsbury’s could easily have responded with a boring standard template letter. Their first letter to Lily was a boring template. But Chris King’s letter made up for that.

  • Have personality.

King signed his letter “Chris King (age 27 & 1/3)”. That signature with personality made his letter extra special.

  • You don’t get to choose what goes viral. But if you’re good at what you do, something will.
  • Empower your staff (and yourself) to be creative.

Official and safe is no longer enough. In fact, it could be driving your customers away. Open the windows and let in the fun! (Want to know what that means in practice too? Take a look at this website).

  • What you do in the real world matters as much as what you do online.
  • When you do good, it’s okay to shout about it.

David Masters

David Masters is Social Caffeine’s lead writer, idea spinner and super-blogger. You’ll find his inky fingerprints all over the web at blogs from ProBlogger to Men with Pens to The Change Blog. He’s British, and he lives in Wales, but we don’t hold that against him.

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