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Off the rails

31 May 2018 | Aaron Wise

Poundland is no stranger to the social arena. Its clever PR often leads to wide-reaching engagement that can be both funny and controversial (just look at the ‘naughty elf’ Christmas campaign).

But in its latest phase in the public eye yesterday, the budget retailer took the moral high ground, threatening legal action against Thameslink, after the train company compared its own poor service to that of ‘Poundland cooking chocolate’ on Twitter.

The tweet was in response to a rail commuter who took to social media to vent their frustration at Thameslink’s cancelled services. Trying to be funny, Thameslink replied “Appreciate at the moment the service is less Ferrero Rocher and more Poundland cooking chocolate.” Bad idea. As a former journalist, defamation springs to mind!

The playful remark quickly turned sour when Poundland sent Thameslink a light-hearted but firm response, demanding the “off the rails” train company to remove the tweet otherwise they would be hearing from its “extremely twitchy legal team”.

The discount High Street store even said if it falls short on “great customer service” in the future, it would describe itself as being “a bit Thameslink”.

The excellently worded tweet, attributed to Austin Cooke, Poundland's retail director, got the response it wanted, as soon after Charles Horton, chief executive of Thameslink's parent company Govia Thameslink Railway, removed the tweet and issued an apology.

Don’t get me wrong, we all love a bit of #banter on Twitter, but comparing your poor service to a giant retail brand and not expecting to be accused of breaching their trademark really takes the biscuit, even if it was an off the cuff remark.

Poor PR for Thameslink and I’m sure the person in charge of its social accounts will now think twice before name-dropping a company in a Tweet.

I do feel a bit sorry for ‘Neil’ (the name the original tweet was assigned to), as plenty of other firms wouldn’t have had the social nous to respond so adroitly, compounding Thameslink’s already poor PR.

Poundland though is seriously good at the old social game, so were hot off the mark here.

It’s a dog-eat-dog world for businesses on Twitter, but considering the playful nature of Poundland’s direct response, you have to give it credit for diffusing the situation in an engaging manner that has seen the brand shared across media platforms once again.

A very well judged response from Poundland, so bravo.