We’ve all heard that experience is the best teacher. However, as an organization, there are certain things you should not experience first-hand as you and your company might not live to tell the story. As much as possible, you should avoid learning things the hard way; it is best to learn from the experiences of others.
Taking a journey down memory lane, we highlighted two huge branding/PR mistakes made by two popular brands. Because we’ve got your best interest at heart, we’ll be sharing those mistakes (one now and the other subsequently) with you so that you don’t fall into the same ditch.
CHEERIOS: A LESSON ON TASTE AND TIMING
When American singer-songwriter, actor, and multi-instrumentalist, Prince, passed away on April 21 2016, Cheerios a Minneapolis-based company tweeted an image of the words “Rest in Peace” on a purple background, with “Prince” in the message. Perhaps that would have been fine if the brand hadn’t put their stamp on it by dotting the “i” with a Cheerio. This “little” touch set off mourning fans, who saw the tweet as an insensitive marketing ploy.
Lesson learned: piggyback riding on trends has been known to put brands in the faces of people, however, attempting to capitalize on a high-profile celebrity’s death rarely puts a brand out there in a positive light–it’s usually deemed tasteless. It was no different for Cheerios. Part of the issue here was the timing of the tweet, which arrived mere hours after Prince’s death was confirmed.
While fans were still trying to deal with the shocking news, the perception was that Cheerios was hopping on the bandwagon to align itself with the artist, and that was too much to bear. Unknown to many people was the fact that Cheerios was based in Prince’s hometown, so it was possible that staff of the company may have felt the loss just as keenly as his biggest fans. To the brand’s credit, when it had become clear that the Twittersphere was upset over the post, the post was quickly removed and Cheerios released a statement explaining that the company had only wanted to “acknowledge the loss of a musical legend in its hometown.” By this time, the damage had been done. People had taken screenshots of the image to repost with their displeasure.
The bottom line: when it comes to a national loss or tragedy, a brand is better off either expressing sympathy without incorporating any kind of commercial message, or just avoiding it altogether.
In the corporate world, we need to recognize that it’s not a matter of if a crisis will occur, but what happens when it does. Virtually every brand, no matter how big or small, will one day experience trying situation, while each crisis can ultimately prove a teaching moment, the best first step any company can take is to be prepared.