September 12, 2013, Posted by Kevin Mullett in big stuff, fail, little stuff, marketing, skewed views, social, un-common sense

Social Media, Marketing, and Advertising Unforced Errors

I knew we would not escape yesterday without someone attempting, subtly or otherwise, to commercialize the 9/11 tragedy. I posted this tweet, bit my tongue, tried to sit on my hands, and waited, knowing full well it was only a matter of time before this happened. Brands just can’t seem to help themselves. They seemed compelled by some mysterious force to comment when it is unnecessary.

Sure enough, one epic failure rose to the top, but I don’t want to dwell on that. In fact, I would rather not be writing this at all. There were plenty of examples of businesses trying to newsjack the day, it’s just that some were more obvious or distasteful than others. Some were no doubt sincere, but here is the point…in baseball tennis this would be called an unforced error.

Play Max Credits: gambling with your online reputationYou see, no one is mandating you comment on difficult subjects. You, as a social media, marketing, or advertising manager, or at the request of your brand/ownership, are willfully subjecting yourself to increased scrutiny, and putting your online brand reputation in jeopardy by attempting to commercialize the event. You have attempted to force your ENTITY into a conversation that is about individuals, and some are going to take issue with it.

Now to be fair, this isn’t likely going to cause your brand to lose the game (bring the company down), but it is silly and smacks of a rookie mistake. Brands, please get this through your heads; this type of behavior is an all-risk, very-little-chance-of-reward play. STOP IT. I am not taking inventory of everyone that didn’t comment: “Hey, you know who I didn’t see memorialize the [current news story or tragedy] is [company]. Those insensitive bastards.”

Does this mean you can’t comment? Of course not, but you better be asking yourself the tough questions.

  1. Do I have to comment?
  2. Could this be taken wrong, offend, or anger my audience?
  3. Does this have even the slightest hint of commercialization in it?

While I would love to devote more time and a larger article to this subject, show various examples, and share how divided roughly 70 people were at a Social Media Breakfast Fort Wayne event that discussed this topic after other recent events, I can’t. All I can tell you is that there are plenty of ways you can test the waters and push the limits, tragedies aren’t it. And if #3 equals yes, Don’t do it.

[Update: It appears that my recollection of unforced errors being a baseball term was incorrect. This has been used in tennis. What is odd about this is that I do not watch tennis.]

[Baseball image from © Chris Collins]

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