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5 Brand Failures Across Social Media

Could this seriously offend someone?

As a social marketing manager, I ask myself this question before posting anything on a brand’s social profile. If the answer is yes, I stop. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like that’s the case for some major brands.

Dear brands:

Please stop commenting on emotionally-charged tragedies and adding in something promotional. In fact, just stop commenting on them altogether! Just because it’s of-the-moment (see Oreos’ stroke of marketing genius from the Superbowl) doesn’t mean it needs to be mentioned. I’m not sure what the intended goal of this “tactic” is, but the results are almost always brutal.

Hell hath no fury like a customer offended!

As a brand, you are not who people look to for condolences and prayers when tragedy strikes. That’s why it’s best to just stay silent on these sensitive subjects. It makes it even worse when you intentionally or unintentionally add in a marketing plug.

Here are some unfortunate examples of social marketing fails:

Epicurious: Not cool using the Boston bombing to promote recipe ideas. Not cool.

Kmart: Not only should you not have said anything at all, but you definitely shouldn’t have added in a promotional #Fab15Toys hashtag.

Urban Outfitters: Making light of a devastating storm may be funny to the teens who wear your clothes, but not to the parents who buy the clothes for them.

Just last month, Spaghetti O’s posted this in remembrance of Pearl Harbor. Many found it disrespectful and tasteless.

AT&T: The worst offender of all.

Although your intention may not have been to promote your company while capitalizing on the tragedy of 9/11, the perception from your customers is what matters. And that’s exactly how it was perceived.

What is happening here? Why do so many brands find it necessary to comment through social media on the news, especially when tragic or painful?

To me, it seems like a completely intentional tactic to capitalize on these emotional and timely issues to garner likes, shares, favorites, follows, and other forms of social media engagement from their fans.  

I don’t see any “good” that can come from it, and most of the time it is downright embarrassing. Sure, wish your customers happy holidays, thank our veterans, and be timely. But how about we as brands stop posting about tragedies, especially when it could be perceived as a marketing plug? Please?

Melissa Pont is a social marketing manager at SaleAMP. She tweets at @melissapont.