The key to unlocking shareholder value: Mayonnaise tweets

February 15, 2013

Attempts to explain why markets move are generally pretty silly, as proven by qualitative case studies. Just look at this master class from CNBC, which spends five minutes offering a dozen different explanations for why the market might be doing what the market is doing. All twelve reasons could be right, or they could be wrong, or the truth might lie somewhere in any one of the millions of permutations of those dozen explanations.

That of course is why people believe these explanation, because they’re stories. For instance, here’s an amusing theory: Groupon stock rises because the petulant CEO tweeted his displeasure about the way mayonnaise is dispensed at sandwich stores. It exists — George Anders has written it at Fortune. First, here’s the rundown of Mason’s comments:

Mason deplores some sandwich shops’ habits of putting mayonnaise on their lunchtime creations, regardless of whether customers want mayo or not. Mayonnaise by default “makes no sense,” Mason asserts. It would be much better if sandwich shops let customers decide for themselves whether to put mayo on their bread. Abstainers would enjoy a mayo-free meal; indulgers would savor their spread on less soggy bread.

My initial reaction was that the whole episode was slightly silly, self-aggrandizing, personal, and maybe unnecessary. Basically standard twitter-fare elevated by the fact that Mason is the CEO of a publicly-traded company. But then a friend pointed me to the last paragraph, which is even more hilarious:

Mason acknowledged that “I am acting emotionally and may regret it.” Then again, there may be no need for remorse. Investors seem impressed with a CEO who cares — even if it’s about his lunchtime sandwich. They have nudged Groupon’s stock about 7% higher, to $5.68 a share at 1:43 p.m. Eastern time Wednesday. Also in the mix, an upgrade from Sterne Agee analyst Arvind Bhatia, who now terms Groupon a buy instead of taking a neutral stance.

And actually, that analysis significantly underplays the impact that Mason’s mayonnaise tweets have had on Groupon’s stock, if you believe in that kind of thing. Since he tweeted his distaste for eggy condiments, and in the additional time since the article in question was written, the stock is up almost 13%. Just imagine what would have happened if he’d tweeted about Sriracha.

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