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What the Heck happened? Heck sausages faced PR crisis and social media uproar after Boris bangers backlash

social media

Earlier this month, the hashtag #BoycottHeck trended across Twitter. Heck Sausages welcomed Boris Johnson to the factory, and the social media backlash quickly gained momentum creating a PR crisis. But was it really that bad? 

As one of the driving forces behind the Leave campaign, Johnson’s visit to Heck was particularly controversial as nearly half of staff are originally from Europe. But, despite trending online, our analysis shows the long term impact on the brand may be minimal. 

In total #BoycottHeck was posted just over 6,000 times. But of these posts, only 1,200 were original— more than two thirds of the social ‘backlash’ was retweets. 

Of that activity, 1,200 included an additional comment, adding further opinion to the online debate. The majority simply shared the original post with no additional input. 

Talking about the results, our Managing Director, Rick Guttridge, has a few things to say.

“It is easy for brands to assume social trending equals business impact, whether positive or negative. What we’re actually seeing from this is a bun fight among 1,200 people. Nearly 4,000 are doing the online equivalent of nodding their head in agreement.

“Social media has the power to amplify situations, and help them gain momentum. But it also has the ability to make issues appear greater than they are. As with Heck.” 


Before Boris’ visit emotional signals in posts about the brand were 75% positive. After the visit this changed to 75% negative, on much higher post numbers. The data showed online sentiment jumped from ‘trust’ and ‘joy’ in June (pre-Boris) to ‘mistrust’ and ‘anger’ in July (post-Boris). 

“In the month of June, there were just 341 posts related to Heck. The first ten days of July saw 9,442 posts, ” Rick continues. “This shows the Boris backlash was generating conversation, rather than necessarily changing the tone of existing social interactions.  

“The backlash may have caused Heck to see a shift from largely positive to more negative social sentiment overall. However, the increase in positive tweets over this period shouldn’t be ignored. 

“The number of tweets showing trust towards the brand jumped from 18 to 759 over this ‘crisis’ period, and ‘joy’ from 17 to 344. So although these were overshadowed by ‘mistrust’ they show a proportion of fans remained loyal. These used the social platform to show support.”

The online backlash period Heck suffered was also largely contained to 8th and 9th July. There were 7,940 tweets over these two days. In comparison, 538 tweets were posted on the following two days.

“Crisis situations are often unexpected. But the management of these, on and offline, becomes easier if there is an army of loyal brand advocates willing to help spread positive messages,” says Rick. 

“It is not enough for brands to simply respond when a crisis hits. It needs to be considered throughout the entire marketing strategy. That will ensure a foundation of positive sentiment. 

“Heck needs to work on its press statements as its public utterance on this came across as unconvincing and untrue. However, thanks to positive brand foundations, this situation seems to be a Boris backlash in a tea cup, rather than a crisis that’ll hit Heck and its bottom line in the long term.”


Want more straight talking thinking about social media sentiment?

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