Incredibly and against respect for those who sacrificed their lives and basic common sense, fifteen years after 9/11, some companies still peg offensive product promotions to that tragic event.
The latest examples involved two ends of the retail spectrum – Wal-Mart, and a tiny independent mattress store in San Antonio, TX that was – until this week – unknown outside of their local market:
- After furious protests on social media, Wal-Mart publicly apologized for a display at a Florida store in which twin towers of Coke Zero packages promoted a sale under a “Never Forget” banner and against a backdrop of red, white and blue Coca Cola products. The store manager and a supplier had presumably acted on their own.
The mattress store promotion and resulting social media viral explosion forced the store to temporarily close. The sophomoric video featured two salesmen falling backwards into twin towers of mattresses causing them to collapse while a spokeswoman laughed and pitched their products.
Let’s simplify how to avoid a similar situation (and avoid lots of corporate speak about the lack of internal protocols and checks and balances, or how to break down silos of communication):
- Think before you act. If it could be considered offensive or in bad taste, it probably is.
- Talk to each other, people! It’s amazing how a little common sense and basic communication might get someone else to prevent an inexcusable lapse of judgment that can tarnish a brand. This is called the Red-Face Test: Avoid the peril of group-think by running a promotional or campaign idea or slogan past several people from outside your inner circle before implementing it and getting the red-face embarrassment. Ask friends, a spouse, customers, maybe even a PR pro for their take.
- The Too Clever-by-Half Rule: Just because a concept is so clever that you fall in love with it, doesn’t mean it’s good idea.
Learn from others’ miscues. We hope not to be writing this column in 2017.