Hey, Marketers: #NeverForget NOT To Advertise About Tragedies

Sorry, folks. It needs to be said yet again, even though the Social Media Insider last told you this less than a month ago. I repeat: do NOT try to market your way into discussion about a tragedy. Stop the trage-tweeting!

Sometimes, what happened 13 years ago yesterday seems like forever ago. My 16-year-old was in preschool, our daughter, not yet born. The TV on which I first saw the horrific image of a fiery hole in the World Trade Center’s North Tower sits gathering dust in the garage. It’s not a flat screen. And there was no Facebook, Twitter or YouTube to share one’s thoughts on – in fact, the Internet economy appeared to be in collapse.

But even though 13 years ago is a long time, it is still too soon – and always will be -- for marketers to get “in” on it, and yet, try to get in on it they did yesterday, with companies from Dunkin’ Donuts to eDealColorado referencing 9/11, with varying degrees of respect for the dead or emotionally traumatized.

Based on a scan of advertiser tweets culled from stories in AdFreak and Advertising Age, the level of taste was on a sliding scale, with big brands sticking to patriotic tributes and smaller brands indulging in God-awful 9/11 discounts. Who could resist @CaffeineSupreme’s come-on: “In remembrance of 9/11 we will be doing a patriotic special drink! 15%off Vanilla Blasts if you want it dyed red.”

One question before I don’t take you on that fine offer, @CaffeineSupreme: Is that red … for blood? The promotion’s only saving grace is that it seems no one except Ad Age noticed it. A post on its Facebook page – linked to from that tweet -- garnered two Likes and one share, when it might have been filled with comments from outraged consumers.

But even larger advertisers with more fine-tuned moral compasses should stay out of 9/11. What, really, does Applebee’s gain from tweeting “We will never forget,” accompanied by a visual of a worse-for-wear American flag? To the extent people even think about what Applebee’s thinks about 9/11, is there some perception that needs correcting? Are its customers wondering whether everyone who works there has forgotten about the whole thing? The more likely result of trage-tweeting from Applebee’s, and other advertisers, is to set themselves up for a steaming platter of derision.

True, that Applebee’s tweet did get its share of retweets, but then there’s Mike Monteiro (@monteiro), who, as AdFreak astutely discovered, made it his mission yesterday to make fun of advertiser 9/11 tweets. His response to Applebee’s 9/11 tweet? The tasteless: “Thank you @Applebees. When we pulled Mother’s body out of the wreckage we dragged it to Applebees. And you guys gave us free sodas.” Not the kind of “conversation” you want to have with someone who has 46,000 followers.

Of course, there are those who viewed Monteiro’s antics as self-promoting, so I suppose if we’re going to point fingers, best to point them everywhere.  But Monteiro, and, yes, the Social Media Insider, are trying to send marketers a message: when it comes to tragedies like 9/11, no one cares what you think. It’s none of your business.

1 comment about "Hey, Marketers: #NeverForget NOT To Advertise About Tragedies".
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  1. Ari Rosenberg from Performance Pricing Holdings, LLC, September 14, 2014 at 7:28 p.m.

    Catharine, I could not agree with you more which makes me really question those in charge of marketing and communications at these brands -- this looks like such a no brainer to stay away -- and yet so many brands show no brains by trying to create some bizarre marketing attachment to what was the worst day in our lives.

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