When it comes to the perilous business of brands joining the conversation about tragic news events, the risk usually outweighs the reward.
The ham-handed attempts — SpaghettiOs’ mascot waving an American flag in a head-scratching remembrance of Pearl Harbor or AT&T’s tacky “Never Forget” tweet last September 11 — are so memorable and damaging that brands seem to be wising up and sitting on the sidelines.
But anniversaries remain a tempting marketing target — especially when the narrative is one of rebirth and redemption, like today’s first running of the Boston Marathon since the bombing at the finish line last year. Showing humanity as a brand can be a positive thing, but it’s difficult to know how messages will be perceived.
The brands that have engaged in the #BostonStrong conversation don’t seem to have made any major missteps. Some criticized UnderArmour’s tweet — “Today, we’re ALL #BostonStrong — last week on the April 15 anniversary of the bombing for being inappropriate, “phony and cheap”, but it definitely wasn’t a PR disaster. Notably, however, today the apparel company didn’t repeat a similar message on social media.
And those that did engage, kept a respectful tone, as least in the examples I came across. One of the best came from Aerosmith, the hall of fame rock band with the Boston pedigree:
That moving tribute — part of an ESPN E:60 Presents special about the bombing’s aftermath — was released last week. This morning I checked in on the #BostonStrong stream on Twitter and Facebook but didn’t see much real-time commercial activity. It seems that many of the brands that tweeted about the anniversary during the last week — Samuel Adams and Gillette, among others — either sat out the conversation or didn’t make explicit reference to the tragedy today.
What I saw seemed very tasteful. I’ve posted a selection below. What do you think? Did any go over the line? Did you see any unfortunate attempts that I missed?
Thinking of the great city of #Boston today and everyone taking part in the #BostonMarathon. #BostonStrong pic.twitter.com/pFuklnMm5O
— Delta (@Delta) April 21, 2014
Dunkin’ Donuts salutes everyone who is part of today’s 2014 Boston Marathon. #BostonStrong
— Dunkin’ Donuts (@DunkinDonuts) April 21, 2014
So far we’ve raised $6k for @OneFundBoston! Keep cheering with us! #RaisingSpirit #BostonStrong pic.twitter.com/h0Du2XjI88
— Poland Spring ® (@PolandSpringWtr) April 21, 2014