Tip Top pulls Popsicle 'selfie with a stranger' message amid concerns

Source: 1News

A promotion by ice cream company Tip Top has glitched after some parents complained at a ‘take a selfie with a stranger’ message printed on sticks across the brand’s range.

The 'take a selfie with a stranger' stick.

The company has decided to pull the message off Popsicle sticks following complaints from concerned Kiwis.

Tip Top’s challenge sticks promotion was launched this month and is set to run into the new year. It involves a prompt on the end of Popsicle or ice cream sticks encouraging them to try something different and get people out of their “routine”.

“At Tip Top, we like to ask ourselves “what’s the best that could happen?” – because when you focus on the best outcomes, you’re more likely to try something new,” the promotion read.

The challenge is across all Tip Top branded stick products, including Choc Bar, Jelly Tip, Rocky Road, Fruju, Popsicle, and Memphis Meltdown and while it’s mostly been met positively, one stick stuck out like a sore thumb.

On one end, a challenge stick read ‘take a selfie with a stranger’ and the other, ‘what’s the best that could happen?’.

1News asked Tip Top director Ben Schurr about concerns expressed over the message.

He said the selfie challenge stick was an “oversight in the approval process for the 32 different sticks, and we agree that this particular choice of stick was not appropriate for younger consumers.

“We apologise for any distress caused, our intention was to inspire some fun and a bit of a laugh over summer.”

Schurr said the company had received “a few comments from parents online regarding the “selfie” stick, that it is inappropriate for younger consumers. We agree this particular challenge stick isn’t suitable for a younger audience and have pulled these sticks from production for our Popsicle range, which we know are more popular with younger New Zealanders,” he said.

“We created Tip Top Challenge Sticks to celebrate moments of optimism and positivity for all New Zealanders.

“The idea behind them is to have a bit of fun, while enjoying a Tip Top ice cream. The intention is to inspire people to do things a bit differently and not necessarily take things literally.”

Parents protest

A New Plymouth mother of four children aged seven and under said Tip Top’s move didn’t go far enough and the company should pull the selfie challenge stick across all its products.

“That stick needs to be completely pulled. It was poor judgement by their marketing team and it doesn’t even make sense,” Tania James said.

“It’s everything we go against in 2022. It’s everything we teach our children not to do. It’s normalising unsafe behaviour, not just for kids but for everyone.

“It’s a company that’s aligned strongly with families and children, so it just doesn’t make sense.

“It’s not even just the challenge part, it was the other end of the stick – where it said ‘what’s the best that could happen?’

“What’s the worst that could happen!? That’s what we are all thinking,” James said.

Schurr said Tip Top has an internal process to review products, packaging and ad campaigns prior to launch.

“We adhere strictly to all advertising standards and other relevant regulations.”

Other challenges printed on ice cream and Popsicle sticks included, ‘walk the cat,’ ‘take the scenic route,’ ‘turn off your phone’ and ‘start a flattering rumour.’

Parents have been particularly perturbed by the challenge, taking to a Facebook parents’ group to flag the controversial stick.

“Marketing team = Gen Zs with no kids,” one person said.

“Oh dear - When Tip Top brings out a new campaign with "challenges" on the sticks.

“My 7-year-old gets "Take a selfie with a stranger" .... ah yea, Tip Top marketing team --- maybe remember who a big chunk of your demographic is and don't challenge them to take photos with strangers...it’s a bit creepy.”

But the feedback wasn’t all bad.

Another Tip Top Challenge Stick suggestion

“In a world where electronics have taken over, perhaps they were encouraging adults to engage with others. Many people are so lonely and a stranger engaging in a fun or caring way could brighten their day,” one commented.

Marketing guru says Tip Top's quick response a good move

Associate Professor of Marketing at Auckland University, Bodo Lang, told 1News “Tip Top has done well to respond quickly and decisively regarding this particular message”.

“The case of this particular message is likely to be one of simple oversight. With many different messages being printed on the challenge sticks, it is likely that this is one message simply slipped through the checking process that Tip Top would have likely had in place. My sense is that it was most likely human oversight.

“The vast majority of companies have extensive checking and sign off processes in place before advertising or other marketing communication is released to the public These tests include checking whether any of the advertising breach current laws, are likely to be questioned on moral and ethical grounds, or are likely to be offensive or alienating.

“The lesson for marketers is simple. No matter how complex advertising is and how many messages may be included in a particular advertising campaign, it is paramount to check all messages to ensure that they are effective and palatable to the target market and beyond. And if something does slip through, the best strategy is to respond quickly, own the errors, and be authentic and decisive in the response to consumers.”

Lang said due to the advent of increased consumer interactivity via the Internet in general and social media in particular, “marketers are increasingly looking for consumers to not just purchase their products but to also engage with the brand”.

“Part of this is spreading brand-related messages to other consumers. Tip Top’s challenge sticks campaign is a good example of this.

“In addition to simply purchasing ice cream the intent is clearly to drive engagement online and offline through consumers desire for novelty seeking and seeking new challenges. My sense is that this is a good campaign. It is well intended, positive, and inclusive. It is also right on the money in terms of where many New Zealand consumers psyche is at present."