Marketing After a Tragedy


There seems to be a steady stream of tragedies across the US in recent months, reminding us that we live in a complicated world – to say the least. However, with these somber tragedies came brilliant signs of hope and unity, some of which was reflected in the media. People turned to social media and advertising to get their message out. One of the main questions I find myself asking is: As a business owner, how do you help those in need and initiate community outreach without seeming like you are trying to capitalize on misfortune?

In my opinion, this is all about common sense. I have seen local bars and restaurants designating a day where a percentage of their sales will go to the One Fund Boston. Dunkin Donuts gives their customers a chance to donate when buying their morning coffee. There are even other businesses promising that for every Facebook “like” their page receives in the month of May, they will donate $5 to the same charity. Bravo for these local businesses. These are great ways to offer the kind of support that our beloved Boston needs, while still building excellent brand loyalty.

With success stories, though, come missteps as well. Epicurious, a culinary website, took to social media in a completely inappropriate and insensitive manner tweeting “Boston, our hearts are with you. Here’s a bowl of breakfast energy we could all use to start today”.  Talk about belittling tragedy!

Epicurious Tweet


Ford has also been the focus of some ridicule due to their “thank you” to Boston first responders. The company posted a picture of two different Ford vehicles with the text “To the first responders of Boston: Thank you. You are true American heroes”. Many have argued that the images of the Ford cars provide little to no value to the image and that it was a shameless attempt of promoting the Ford brand. I have to say that I agree, I think that a simple status update or Twitter post would have sufficed, the not so subtle images were overkill and in my opinion, Ford wasn’t fooling anybody.

Ford Social Media


Managing Director of Edelman Digital Dave Armano recently posted a guide on branding after tragedy strikes. He wrote this after the devastating events at Sandy Hook elementary school back in December. This is a great tool for businesses and marketing consultants to become familiar with. It addresses the point that even in the midst of devastation, professionals still have businesses to run and this helps them not only do just that, but express their sorrow and offer value to the broken communities. It advises business owners to help when you can and stay silent when you should. Social media can come across as insensitive if timing and tone are not well thought out. Companies must evaluate the message they put out there to make sure it could not be misinterpreted.

What someone chooses to post, or even not post, can influence the public enormously. During that Marathon Monday afternoon, it was through social media that people were able to keep up to date on the unraveling events. The FBI encouraged us to get the images of the suspects out to the public via social media so that they could identify these men as soon as possible.  The very next day, they were urging us not to post too much for fear that the suspects would have an inside look at the investigation. With all of that being said, it is a true testament to how prevalent social media has become in the past years. It is also a reminder about how social media should not be taken lightly: it can be what makes or breaks your reputation and your company’s brand during a time of need.


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