Don’t Use A Catastrophe to Promote Your Business
Unfortunately, we’re living in the era of the 24-hour news cycle, meaning we have unpleasant news waiting in our inboxes, bombarding our social feeds and greeting us strangely from the television every second of every day. By the time this blog publishes, there will be another catastrophe distracting us, making us to ask the hard questions—how could this happen and what does it mean?
As a marketer, I have some opinions about how brands should respond to tragedies. An unsettling event is not—I repeat, is not—an opportunity to advertise. Even though catastrophes are often trending topics—they unify us in confusion and grief—there are smart, sensitive ways to join the conversation and then there are ways to light your fart on fire.
Here are some campaigns that did the latter.
Customers who participated in the Boston Marathon in 2017 received a very poorly worded email from the major shoe and sports attire company.
Last year Puerto Rico was left in shambles. Mark Zuckerberg captured the aftermath with Facebook’s BRAND NEW VR app Spaces.
While the intention behind this Facebook Live video was to show how much aid Facebook was providing to Puerto Rico, it was tone deaf. It seemed that Zuckerberg used the tragedy to show off Facebook’s VR capabilities.
This is another marketing fail that was caused by bad timing. Airbnb launched their “floating world” marketing campaign, which included an image of a water-themed house sitting on the surface of water.
The copy included, “Stay above water,” and “live the life aquatic with these floating homes.”
This campaign launched on August 28th, 2017, when Hurricane Harvey was engulfing Houston.
A few years ago, some poor marketing intern at American Apparel misinterpreted a very famous image. The caption read “#smoke #clouds” to the backdrop of good ol’ fireworks, only it wasn’t fireworks—it was the Challenger explosion, an image of astronauts dying on live TV. This is reputation-ruining material for any company, but especially if you’re named American Apparel.
Instagram Influencers & The California Wildfires
Trend hashtags are often used to increase reach and engagement. Even though a hashtag seems like a mindless and harmless detail, some people are actually paying attention. Recently, Business Insider outed a number of brands that used hashtags about the California Wildfires to sell products and services.
There are many examples like the ones I’ve posted, from major international campaigns to an “oopsy” social media post from a small business. When disaster strikes, that doesn’t mean you have to remain silent. Free speech is great, and you should share those feelings! But keep in mind that your reputation is always on the line… well… it’s always online. One simple mistake could do major, permanent damage. So here are tips for respectful commentary.
How Brands Should Respond to Tragedy
Marketing does not take place outside the world. Being successful in marketing means you must know what’s going on around you. Knowing is the first step—then you have to find creative and sensitive ways to join the conversation without explicitly promoting your brand, services or products.
Do Not, EVER:
Tie a tragic event into a promotion.
Send pitches if the event is ongoing—period.
Make any specific statements about what happened.
Ask an Expert
When you’re developing a social marketing strategy, it pays to devote attention to sensitivity and timing. The beauty of social marketing is that it is social. It’s here now and gone tomorrow. You want that spontaneous message to leave a lasting impression, but you don’t want it to backfire, or even worse, be dead in the water.
It may be that you’re not getting any engagement on social what so ever, especially if you’re in the business to business (B2B) space. It’s really common to for companies of all sizes to hit the marketing “ceiling” and ask the inevitable question: Is it time to call on an expert? You may be weighing the option to hire a social guru or outsource to an agency. There are benefits to both, and our resource In-House vs Outsourced Marketing will likely aid your decision.
Here at Access Marketing Company, we have a lot of opinions, resources and tactics on how to achieve positive results from social marketing. We’d love to share them with you if you’re interested. Call 720.536.8650 today to discover how to align social media with your business goals.