Victoria McMahon

Victoria McMahon

Digital PR Strategist

Piggybacking on news stories to get coverage has always been a standard and, done well, very successful PR technique.

But in the age of social, in which opinions and comments are shared instantly with little preparation or even thought, tasteless piggybacking can damage a brand’s reputation in a matter of hours.

When the world heard the news of Prince’s death yesterday, #PrinceRIP and #RIPPrince began trending worldwide within a few hours. Tributes poured in from fans, celebrities and even brands such as The New Yorker, who released an early look at May’s issue in tribute to the icon.

And then some companies decided to take this opportunity to sell their brand…

homebase

We spotted the tweet early this morning and were discussing it in the office just before Homebase took it down and offered sincere apologies to their followers for any offence caused.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen brands trying to jump on popular hashtags and getting it very, VERY wrong.

In 2012, clothing brand American Apparel made an incredibly poor judgement of using the death and loss caused by Hurricane Sandy to promote a 20% discount for shoppers “bored during the storm”.

If that wasn’t bad enough, they also created the code SANDYSALE to enter at the checkout.

American

Similarly, in 2011 clothing and accessories brand Kenneth Cole posted the following tweet in the midst of protests in Egypt, with backlash from the internet coming in almost instantly.

Kenneth

Kenneth Cole, Chairman and Chief Creative Office then removed the offending tweet and issued an apology on their Facebook page.

A more recent fail came from cosmetics brand Benefit, who came under fire in 2015 for what some called fat-shaming tweets from their official Twitter account. The brand joined in a trending conversation around #MakeAMovieAFatty with the following contribution…

Benefit

Benefit later deleted the tweets and offered what some saw as a pitiful excuse and explanation for their involvement.

“Lovely Benebabes. We always get involved in hashtags that are trending. We are not poking fun at anybody. #laughteristhebestcosmetic xx”

— Benefit Cosmetics UK (@BenefitUK) July 6, 2015

So let’s all just take a breath, stop hijacking any trending topic whether it has relevance to our brand or not, and maybe just get a slightly better approval process so we can think before we tweet.

To end on a more positive note, here’s an example of when Snickers got it right…

Snickers

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