Five Ways To Avoid A SpaghettiOs Social Media Disaster

Written by Brad Phillips @MrMediaTraining on December 8, 2013 – 11:33 am

To acknowledge December 7th yesterday—Pearl Harbor Day here in the United States—the food brand SpaghettiOs sent out the following tweet:

spaghettios tweet

2,402 Americans were killed on December 7, 1941 when Japanese fighters launched a surprise attack on American military ships based in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The attack directly led to the United States entering World War II, in which an additional 418,000 Americans died.

So how, exactly, does a smiling SpaghettiOs noodle holding a flag honor that sacrifice? It doesn’t, obviously, and the more than 5,000 people who retweeted the ridiculous tweet torched the brand for its casual commercialization of a national tragedy.

Worse, they didn’t learn from the mistakes of others. SpaghettiOs was the latest in a long line of brands using moments of commemoration to promote their brand. In August, for example, The Golf Channel “honored” Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech by asking golfers to submit their golf dreams.

Golf Channel

And in April, immediately following the Boston Marathon bombing that killed three people and maimed many others—the food website Epicurious sent these tweets:

Epicurious Tweets

In the cases above, I don’t believe that the brands intentionally sent those tweets to manufacture a controversy. But there’s no denying that these social media hubbubs resulted in massive brand recognition, spread by angry tweeters who shared the brands’ names.

I’m no longer convinced that these instances hurt all brands in the long-term; there’s at least some evidence that they don’t. It’s entirely possible that SpaghettiOs, now back in the public consciousness, will experience a boost in sales. If that’s the case, we can expect to see more brands using this tactic intentionally.

Clothing designer Kenneth Cole appears to be doing so already. He sent these tweets in 2011 about Egypt and 2013 about Syria, respectively:

Kenneth Cole Egypt 

Kenneth Cole Syria

Despite receiving intense criticism for his crassness, he bragged to Details Magazine in October that:

“If you look at lists of the biggest Twitter gaffes ever, we’re always one through five. But our stock went up that day, our e-commerce business was better, the business at every one of our stores improved, and I picked up 3,000 new followers on Twitter. So on what criteria is this a gaffe?”

Assuming you don’t want your brand to be associated with those tactics, here are five tips that will help you honor a national holiday, day of commemoration, or news event the right way:

1. Don’t Be Clever

When honoring a holiday on which people died or fought for equal rights, don’t be clever or stretch to make the moment fit your brand (e.g. connecting scones with dead marathoners). If you’re so inclined, make a straightforward and genuine statement honoring the people affected or lost (“72 years ago today, thousands of Americans lost their lives in Pearl Harbor. We honor their sacrifice.”). Obviously, that statement shouldn’t be accompanied by an animated noodle.

2. Don’t Be Promotional 

Commemorative days don’t serve as moments to sell your brands. The only exception is if you’ve done something to help. For example, it would be okay to say, “In honor of those who died in Pearl Harbor, we have made a donation of $25,000 to the World War II National Memorial Fund.”

3. For Major News Events, Simpler Is Better

On and after September 11, 2001, most commercial websites understandably felt the need to acknowledge the tragedy. The websites that did it best made it completely about the event. As a positive example, here’s what Amazon.com had on its homepage on September 14, 2001:

Amazon Sept 14 2001 Homepage

4. Ask Whether You Should Say Anything At All

There seems to be an increasing tendency of unrelated brands to comment at every potential moment. A straightforward statement is generally an okay idea, but ask yourself whether you should be saying anything at all. Few brands are expected to comment on Pearl Harbor Day, for example. Ask yourself when your brand should be commenting on those dates—or news events—at all.

5. Train Your Staff

Print this post. Have a formal staff training. Have an informal discussion. However you choose to train your staff, make sure you train your staff! My belief is that most of these mistakes aren’t made by evil, mean, or otherwise horrible people. They’re made, most of the time, by oblivious but well-meaning and untrained people.

Like the blog? Read the book! The Media Training Bible: 101 Things You Absolutely, Positively Need to Know Before Your Next Interview is available in paperback, for Kindle, and iPad.

 

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...

Media and Presentation Training Workshops

Attend one of our fast-moving and content-rich workshops! You'll receive personalized feedback in a small-group setting that helps you become a more effective speaker.


Next workshop: August 26-27, 2014

VIEW FULL SCHEDULE

Join our email list to get our 21 most essential media training tips

An Amazon #1 PR Bestseller: The Media Training Bible: 101 Things You Absolutely, Positively Need To Know Before Your Next Interview. Learn more.

  • About Mr. Media Training

    The Mr. Media Training Blog offers daily tips to help readers become better media spokespersons and public speakers. It also examines how well (or poorly) public figures are communicating through the media.

    Brad Phillips is the Founder and Managing Editor of the Mr. Media Training Blog. He is the president of Phillips Media Relations, a media and presentation training firm with offices in NYC and DC.

    Brad Phillips

    Before founding Phillips Media Relations in 2004, Brad worked as a journalist with ABC's Nightline with Ted Koppel and CNN's Reliable Sources and The Capital Gang.

    Brad tweets at @MrMediaTraining.

    Christina Mozaffari is the Senior Writer for the Mr. Media Training Blog. She is the Washington, D.C. vice president for Phillips Media Relations.

    Brad Phillips

    Before joining Phillips Media Relations in 2011, Christina worked as a journalist with NBC News, where she produced stories for MSNBC's Hardball with Chris Matthews, NBC Nightly News, and The Today Show.

    Christina tweets at @PMRChristina.

  • Comments or Tips?

  • Media Requests

    To book Brad Phillips for a media interview, please e-mail Contact@MrMediaTraining.com
  • In The News

    Click here to see media coverage of Brad Phillips and the Mr. Media Training Blog.
  • Media Training

    Click here for more information about our customized media training workshops. To book a media training workshop, e-mail Info@PhillipsMediaRelations.com