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Velveta Cheese Shortage: #Cheesepocalypse or PR Ploy?

We all know Americans love their orange-colored, highly processed cheese – but I’m not sure if anyone expected the mass chaos that erupted when the story broke that there is a shortage of Kraft’s famous Velveeta cheese, and right before the Super Bowl! Okay, I might be exaggerating on the mass chaos part, but there was definitely an explosion in the media world, both in the social sphere and mainstream media.


Cheesepocalypse, as it was eventually deemed, was picked up virtually everywhere: USA Today, Yahoo!, People, E! Online, NY Daily News, CNN, NPR and ABC News, to name a few.


The hashtag #Cheesepocalypse even trended on Twitter We’re talking hundreds of millions of impressions  – aka “earned media ” – in just a few short hours for the food company and its beloved brand.


To the general public, this may be a believable concern, but the PR person in me is pretty leery of this so-called “shortage.” It reminds me a little bit of that time Abercrombie & Fitch offered Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino of Jersey Shore fame a “substantial payment” to stop wearing their clothes. A company that took a lot of heat for very sexual campaigns marketed towards young teens suddenly found themselves in a media blitz for something other than harsh criticism of their ads, garnering coverage from the likes of the Wall Street Journal, Gawker, HuffPost and just about every major news network in the country.

That brings us back to Velveeta. While stories have come out citing that retailers have had trouble getting shipments of the product, Kraft has repeatedly declined to discuss details of the shortage. Hmm…something sounds up. The brand’s one claim has been a spike in seasonal demand, but I don’t recall any Velveeta shortages in any past Super Bowl seasons. I’m going to have to call BS on the cheese that defies all logical shelf life, but I will say this: well played, Kraft.

~ Jillian Verpent, Account Coordinator, The S3 Agency

UPDATE: On January 13, 2013 – less than a week after the story broke – we noticed Velveeta’s Cheesepocalypse.org site. Some digging revealed it wasn’t registered until January 10 (a cyberstalker appears to own Cheesepocalypse.com). Nice response time for the cheesy brand.

Editor’s note: Of course, we helped our cheese client, Emmi of Switzerland, ride out the #cheesepocalypse wave with a little social media graphical meme action of their own.




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