The short version is that Target made a change in its stores to remove gender labeling from toys. Some people thought there might be an overabdundance of political correctness and took to social media to voice their complaints.

Then they were answered by Mike Melgaard.

Mike doesn’t work for Target, but he created a simple user id with a Target logo and the name “Ask ForHelp”. Note that there is no space between the second and third words. Just Ask ForHelp. I missed it the first time.

Mike wrote many responses to many people angry about this change. None of the responses were especially nice. Many were funny because they tapped a nerve called “If we could only tell ranting customers the way it’s going to be” and those responses were shared all over the Internet. AdAge was especially in tune with the story, jumping on the news early and following through the developments when Target deactivated the account and then sent a bit of a coded love letter to Melgaard via its own page.

Mainstream media blew this story. The Today Show went so far as to publish that Target was unhappy. Seirously. They wrote this: “Target has pulled all of the related posts from its page, and isn’t happy with Melgaard’s antics.”

Because a geek defusing a social media hailstorm with humor always displeases leaders.

Make no mistake. Target loved  Melgaard’s assault on the vocal minority. He knocked out at least a week’s worth of someone’s time, and grew an Internet audience of thousands who applauded his actions and undoubtedly dissuaded other complaints from reaching Target. They disabled his account because you can’t knowingly have people insulting strident customers. But you can be certain that they embraced the attention that the people following the story were giving their decision.

This little coded image and copy appeared on Target’s site the next day.

Facebook post from Target









Target gets that this was a special situation. Target gets that the social media skirmish was overwhelmingly in favor of their new policy. So they published a picture of trolls with a nice message. It told Melgaard everything he needed to know: all is forgiven, and hey, thanks.

Had a tone-deaf Target manager or attorney truly been upset and stomped on Melgaard’s phony comments, the backlash would have consumed the company. Instead, they showed a cheeky side to their corporate selves and stayed out of trouble. Yes, the people who adamantly hate the policy are unhappy, but they were unappy already and nothing was going to change that.

This was a brilliant strategic move for Target and an excellent case study for other organizations who find themselves no longer in control of their story.

Your takeaway as a leader is to understand why this was Target’s only winning strategy or hire someone for social media who does. And it’s okay if this whole Facebook thing isn’t something you like dealing with it. This is your opportunity to put someone in place who can help your organization succeed on Facebook, Twitter, and all the rest of them. Because that’s increasingly the entry point to the Internet for many of your customers.



Man Poses as Target on Facebook, Trolls Haters of Its Gender-Neutral Move With Epic Replies

Man posing as Target on Facebook replies outrageously to gender-neutral critics –

Mike Melgaard Facebook profile

Image: Mike Melgaard Facebook profile

Google is flagging some websites for being too slow and a client helping adults with disabilities opens its third location.

What you need to know about “The Dress”

The dress of many colors was a random bit of viral content that spread throughout the planet. I received responses from Australia, Africa, Europe and Asia when I asked people using super-cool new social network Plague how far the issue had spread.

As an organization leader, you should understand that this started late Wednesday night and saturated the Internet by Thursday afternoon. Smart marketers offered “dress-free” zones and “explainer” articles for their communities.

You missed the opportunity if you didn’t publish then because everything was over by midday Friday. That’s the speed needed for social media.

News You Should Know


Sharing on a Pinterest board is a hobby millions of people enjoy. Many marketers, especially national brand marketers, quickly followed the passionate pinners online and began doing what marketers do best.  They did everything possible to encourage people to pin information about their brands.  So far, so good except now the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) says some of the activity can seem a little too much like an undisclosed endorsement.  That is a huge blow for organizations running social media contests.

In a March 20 letter to the attorneys for shoe manufacturer Cole Haan, the FTC’s Mary Engle wrote that a contest Cole Haan had sponsored created a situation where “…participants’ pins featuring Cole Haan products were endorsements of the Cole Haan products, and the fact that the pins were incentivized by the opportunity to win a $1000 shopping spree would not reasonably be expected by consumers who saw the pins.”

Engle, the FTCs Associate Director for Advertising, said the agency would not recommend enforcement action because they had not previously addressed whether a contest entry is a form of material connection.  They also had not yet commented on “whether a pin on Pinterest may constitute an endorsement”.  Cole Haan apparently worked with the FTC and adopted a social media policy that would similarly address any similar promotions in the future.

This is important. Read the words again.

The FTC has publicly said that “entry into a contest to receive a significant prize in exchange for endorsing a product through social media constitutes a material connection”.

You already know that people endorsing your brand for an incentive must disclose the relationship. Now the FTC is saying that requiring one of your products to be pinned on a Pinterest board for a contest entry requires that same disclosure. Guidance for other social media contests may be issued, and that is something you should watch for.

Your takeaway as a small business leader is to understand how even innocuous-seeming contest entries in social media channels can create the “material consideration” relationship the FTC warns everyone about.  You should talk with your attorney once and have that person help you create boilerplate you can repurpose later. Not doing so is to create a lot of risk for not much reward.

The link to the FTC’s letter to Cole Haan is in PDF at their site.