More brands suffer at the hands of social media

11 Sep

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First there were hurricanes, and shootings. Then there was horsemeat and a Royal baby. What have these events got in common? They’ve all prompted (foolish) companies to jump on the bandwagon to promote their brands. But, more often than not, the PR and marketing team’s rushed efforts lead to a grovelling apology after a consumer backlash.

Let me explain.

Today, the world remembers the innocent victims from the tragic 9/11 event in New York. And, like clockwork, brands have used the 12-year anniversary for self gain. Unfortunately, it’s all too transparent and US site Fast Company has created a round-up of the worst social media stunts. Take a look – it’s really interesting.

Telecommunications company AT&T shamelessly featured the new Blackberry in its commemorative corporate tweet – which went down like a lead balloon despite the brand realising its rookie mistake and deleting from its Twitter and Facebook accounts.

That’s not all.

Marriott Hotels – which has a unique connection with 9/11 in the sense that one of its branches sat at the foot of the Twin Towers and collapsed with it on the day – tweeted an image of a plate of pastries and a sign reading that it was giving them away between 8.45am and 9.15am. People lost their lives. So, needless to say that pastries aren’t really a consolation prize to shout about.

First of all, social media managers / interns / robots that are running the game must sense check with the wider marketing teams and get key messages signed off. That way if the update blows – you’re all idiots.

Secondly, an event like this shouldn’t even be viewed as a commercial opportunity. Yes, if done in the right way, it can curry favour with consumers. But, brands shouldn’t make light of 9/11 in anyway. Ok, a #neverforget hash tag can put your tweet in the centre of the online community, but images? Risky. What picture can possibly connect with thousands of people directly associated with the event, and the millions more who were touched by it. As we’ve seen, brands can be on top of the world one minute and at the bottom the next. And clicking delete doesn’t mean a thing once it’s been seen.

Brands must keep it simple. Nappy company Huggies is a good example of this by remembering the victims and the brave people who risked their lives to save others. But, even then, you’re left thinking ‘why are you getting involved?’

So, lastly, unless your brand has a direct association with the event in question and you have something that will add value to ‘the’ online conversation, say nothing at all.

Silence is golden in situations like this. Agree?

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