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Pawngo’s apology: Part of its PR stunt?

What do you do when you can’t afford a Super Bowl ad, but want to capitalize on it from a marketing perspective?

Pull off a PR stunt.

That’s just what Pawngo did

The company, an online pawn shop, dumped thousands of Butterfinger candy bars in Boston’s Copley Square. It was accompanied with a sign saying “Thank you, Wes Welker”, who if you were one of the 190 million Americans that didn’t watch the Super Bowl, dropped a pass that likely would have won the game for the New England Patriots.

Whether the Denver company (whose local team was beat handily by the Patriots in the playoffs), or the NYC-based PR firm (who probably has a few Giants fans in their ranks) had more to do with it is up for debate, the stunt was effective in getting bundles of media coverage and online chatter.

But, big surprise, it did not go over well in Boston, with no shortage of “f— you Pawngo” and “suck it, Pawngo” sentiments littering discussion forums, Twitter streams and Facebook news feeds. It even garnered a $1,000 fine from the city for illegal dumping.

And big surprise, the CEO apologized yesterday.

Seriously, did Pawngo or its PR firm expect a different outcome? I doubt it, and I would bet they were writing the apology letter at the same time they were ordering the Butterfingers. It is part of the typical PR stunt playbook.

Why do I think so? Read the letter and try to convince me why it is not as self-serving as the stunt itself. It follows below with my comments about what the letter should have left out if in fact it was an honest apology.

To All of Boston, Wes Welker and Patriots Fans Across the Nation

I Apologize.

As a die-hard sports fan, I would like to sincerely apologize for a misguided and misdirected stunt that we did yesterday in Boston.  In delivering a pile of Butterfinger bars to Copley Square in Boston, and a sign referencing Wes Welker, we were making a lighthearted gesture following Sunday’s hard fought game.   We thought that Boston fans would get a laugh out of it.  But,  for many great Boston sports fans, it was taken offensively.  Please accept my most sincere apologies.  We got caught up in the moment, reacting to a suggestion that we thought would be funny, but we were wrong, and on behalf of everyone involved with Pawngo, I apologize.

We all make mistakes.  Perhaps I need a Butterfinger candy bar myself.

Pawngo has been changing the world of providing credit to individuals and small businesses, and our business has grown dramatically in the past year.  In the process of growing, we have received lots of attention from the press, talking about how we are opening up new financial options for many otherwise un-bankable people.  However, this incident in Boston produced some press that we would rather not have.

We will not make this type of mistake again.  We will double-down our energy and our focus on our customers, and will continue to distinguish ourselves with exceptional customer service and the most fair rates we can provide for borrowers who work with Pawngo.

To Wes Welker and the rest of the Patriots organization, we at Pawngo apologize for any hard feelings caused by what was only meant to be a light hearted gesture following Sunday’s hard fought game.

As sports fans it is easy to get caught up in the moment of the game, yet be assured that this in no way diminishes your efforts on and off the field. Thank you for your continued hard work and best of luck in the future.

Very sincerely,

Todd Hills, CEO-Founder
Pawngo.com

If it wasn’t for the fact that the company let its Twitter followers know about the apology with the following tweet that included more of the same attempted humor, I might have thought that it was genuine.

But it’s hard for me to believe it. The letter was all part of the stunt to get them another wave of coverage. Based on how it approached the letter, it was more of the same kind of press the CEO claimed it “would rather not have”. At the very least, I would have counseled them to make the above edits to the letter, as well as an act of goodwill like (as some suggested) donating to the Wes Welker Foundation.

How did you view the stunt and its apology?

Image courtesy Megan Marrs via BostInno

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