We’re still writing the rules of social media, yes, and sometimes it can be hard to tell what’s kosher or not when it comes to national tragedies. Are jokes okay, for example? When it comes to 9/11 I’d argue yes, provided that they’re about the idea of 9/11™, or about the political insanity that resulted from that day, or the warmongering xenophobes who’ve wrung every last drop of meaning out of it, and not about people who actually suffered. That seems like a fair compromise, right?
One thing that’s not okay, however–never has been, never will be–is using a national tragedy as some sort of branding opportunity. Exhibit A from AT&T today. [Update: the tweet has since been deleted and AT&T have apologized.]
Never Forget pic.twitter.com/74Br2rBL3A
— AT&T (@ATT) September 11, 2013
Gawker’s Sam Biddle summed up the only response to something like this rather succinctly: “@ATT FUCK YOU.”
How about this one from HBO?
— HBO (@HBO) September 11, 2013
It’s not only the domain of big, gallumphing corporations on Twitter either. Here’s one hotel chain that probably meant well, but should’ve known better:
It doesn’t even have to be a promotion of sorts to come off as vile and self-congratulatory. Consider this one below from Huggies. Who does this comfort? Put this tweet in one of your products and toss it out because it’s a messy baby dump.
Today we remember the victims of the tragedy that struck our country and salute the brave men & women who risked their lives to save others.
— Huggies® (@Huggies) September 11, 2013
Here’s a golf course in Wisconsin that was offering 9 holes for $9.11. In what universe is that even remotely a good idea? As usual, The Onion was spot on in lampooning this sort of thing with their Subway “Subtember 11th” promotion.
It doesn’t matter if the actual human behind the idea of the brand’s “best wishes” or “prayers” actually meant well, because we should all know better by now. No one wants your sympathy or your thoughts anymore, except perhaps for people who actually lost loved ones that day. And that’s not just true for corporations, it’s also true for people too. Because that’s all we’re really doing when we “share our thoughts,” isn’t it? Launching a promotion for our own personal brand. The one in which we’re a thoughtful, caring human being. For example, look at me.
I’m a guy who wants you to think 9/11 is too important for brands to latch onto. Take a good, long, look at me. I’m selling something, too.