On April 21st people all over the world united to pay their respects on social media for the passing of iconic legend, Prince.
Unfortunately it seems that in today’s digital world, brands are yet to learn what the appropriate action is to take in this situation, if any at all. And if so, how to do it tastefully.
Brands were criticised for capitalising on Prince’s tragic death and publishing shameless self-promoting posts in response to the hashtag traffic generated by his passing. Here are a couple of examples of the good, the bad and the ugly..and it’s safe to say they’re pretty ugly.
Besides being a brand based in Prince’s home town of Minnesota, Cheerios has questionable relevance to Prince. Their self-promoting tweet was taken down by Cheerio’s social media marketers shortly after going up, as they realised their use of product placement in this circumstance could be seen as distasteful.
In a statement to Ad Age, General Mills said: “As a Minnesota brand, Cheerios wanted to acknowledge the loss of a musical legend in our hometown. But we quickly decided that we didn’t want the tweet to be misinterpreted, and removed it out of respect for Prince and those mourning.”
Homebase is another brand arguably regretting their decision to join in on the hashtag mourning surrounding Prince’s death. They wrongly took advantage of the trending tweet for shameless, and tasteless, self-promotion purposes, with no tie between the brand and musician in any way.
In light of the Maker’s Mark tweet above, one twitter user pointed out to the whiskey company that Prince was not a drinker of alcohol, ‘You know Prince was strongly against consuming alcohol, right?’ The company have, strangely, decided to keep their post on their account.
Spotify is well placed in the music industry and has a somewhat clearer connection to Prince, but even they weren’t exempt from criticism after their questionable tribute.
Luckily one brand came out the other side of a Prince tribute with their self-respect intact. Google proved how it should be done with a genuine and subtle homage of respect.
What Brands Should Learn
There’s a valuable lesson to be learned here and brands that actively use social media for real time marketing should take note. Pay your respects, sure. It’s even more meaningful if you have some kind of relevant message or reason to post, but keep your products and services as far away as possible, because your audience will see through you.