Please, not a word.
In your advertising, in your PR, on your Web sites, say nothing. No matter how deeply you ache for the next of kin, and for the country, keep it to yourself. No matter how you or your employees might have pitched in to ameliorate the pain or to support their own communities, there is nothing about Sandy Hook Elementary that needs your brand name attached to it. Not one single thing.
From Oklahoma City to 9/11, from Katrina to Kosovo, certain marketers pushed themselves into public view. Motives are sometimes impossible to divine. Perhaps these companies, and the people within them, just wish -- like all heartbroken bystanders -- to express how deeply sad they are, and happen to have the media budgets to do so. Too often, though, they merely prove how deeply cynical they are, and leverage their media budgets to do a little one-off marketing.
In 1995, after the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City killed 168 men, women and children, power-tool toolmaker Makita took out a full-page newspaper ad to brag that its products were used by relief and rescue teams. Couched as an expression of solidarity, it was morally grandstanding upon a mass grave.
"Today, hundreds of courageous rescue workers are putting their own safety at risk in hope of bringing the Oklahoma City tragedy to a conclusion. Makita Power Tools are with them in spirit and on the rescue site.”
In 1998, Philip-Morris airlifted what The Wall Street Journal estimated to be $125,000 of Kraft food to Kosovar refugees. Nice gesture. Too nice to be lost in the headlines. So the company's ad agency, Leo Burnett, undertook a $1 million TV commercial to dramatize the client's generosity. They created a refugee-camp set in the un-wartorn Czech Republic, tied headscarves on 350 extras and created a poignant 60-second spot, while Philip-Morris proceeded to spend many millions of dollars airing it. Bless their philanthropic hearts.
Don't begrudge them their moment of self-congratulation. This is a company that for decades addicted children to carcinogens behind a smokescreen of fictitious scientific doubt; if they don't honor themselves, who will? Anyway, even that obscenity looks like a sizzle reel for Jesus compared to what followed 9/11, when American consumers were asked to show their patriotism and honor the victims by buying a Taurus or a Lumina. Both General Motors (“Keep America Rolling!”) and Ford Motor Co. (“Ford Drives America”) launched versions of a 3000-dead Sale-a-bration, because national grief posed such a splendid opportunity. You can't personally get revenge against bin Laden, but you can get yourself a totally bitchin' Explorer.
Thus were the sacred burial grounds of 9/11 trampled. It was like picking the pockets of the dead.
We are now only a few days into the Sandy Hook aftermath, and so far most everybody had demonstrated respect. There will always be loathsome political opportunists, like the religious kook Mike Huckabee (“We ask why there is violence in our schools, but we've systematically removed God from our schools. Should we be so surprised that schools would become a place of carnage because we've made it a place where we don't want to talk about eternity, life, what responsibility means, accountability?”)I would like to see him say as much to some of the parents who lost their babies; I've never witnessed a man being beaten mute.
But faulting an ignoramus for being ignorant is like faulting a rooster for waking you up. What defies all understanding is the perversity of, say, a film producer exploiting the tragedy to promote his new flick. Yet blogger Fruzsina Eördögh says she ran across this press release promoting the movie “Genius.”
Los Angeles, CA, December 14. Those who murder all have one thing in common, says the producer of new movie on the death of the Beatles’ John Lennon.
Based on initial reports, a masked gunman murdered more than 25 people -- including 18 children -- at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut on Friday morning. Two guns were found near the shooter, who was discovered dead inside a classroom, according to law enforcement officials and media reports. Witnesses said the shooter was wearing a mask but his identity was still unknown. This is the second deadliest school shooting since the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre claimed the lives of 32 people…. Ray Comfort, the producer of a new movie called “Genius,” believes he knows why people are willing to take innocent life. …..
“Something tragic is happening in our country,” Comfort noted, “and most people don't know what it is. Those who want to understand why these tragedies are occurring -- and are likely to continue to occur -- should watch the free movie.”
I, of course, cannot be certain this is not an awful hoax, for I'm always freshly stunned when an enterprise trades on dead children to move the needle. But assuming Eördögh hasn't been scammed, can you not envision a man with his P.R. agent on Friday, with CNN playing in the background, exchanging high fives?