Consumer Insights · Media Strategy · Brand Planning | Los Angeles, CA

Are Brands Finally Figuring Out How to Handle National Tragedies?

Let me begin by extending my sympathy and best wishes to the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing, their loved ones, and the residents of Boston.

Such trying times often bring out the best in individuals and communities, but all too often, they bring out the worst in brands. From tone-deaf attempts at timely promotions to obliviousness to the point of offensiveness, when disaster strikes, companies often jam their foot in their 140-character mouth. 

So it was no surprise to me this afternoon, when my coworker, Heather, pointed out that it was now officially a national tragedy: she had finally gotten word of a company saying something dumb on Twitter. After taking a leisurely eye roll at Epicurious’ tweets, I was at least relieved that it wasn’t overt profit-seeking or brand-building, just an attempt at being cute and current at a time when nobody wants to hear it.


For that to be the worst corporate sin of the whole 24 hours is actually an improvement. Hopefully, companies are finally waking up to the reality that their voices, particularly their normal branded patter, aren’t what the public wants to hear during trying times. Perhaps there should be rules to this.

If anybody ever hires me as their social media manager, I’ll put forward two options for a company who wishes to respond to events like this:

  1. Express genuine sympathy and solidarity
  2. Do something that actually helps, for its own sake

There is no option three. If your brand can’t or chooses not to do one of those two things, it should either stick to business as usual or be quiet. The cranberry scones can wait.

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