Ed and Deb barreled breathlessly into my office to tell me one of our larger clients wanted major publicity for their efforts to rebuild Lower Manhattan’s telecommunications network. “Can you believe that, Steve?” asked Ed. “It’s wrong, just so wrong,” added Deb. I agreed. And, I supported their decision to refuse to generate ANY publicity that was so blatantly self-serving.
Happily, the client listened to our counsel. But, many other companies didn’t. And, I remember the skewering those firms took in a full-page Wall Street Journal article written later that same week.
And, yet, fully 12 years after 9/11, we still see major brands make major mistakes on the fateful anniversary:
AT&T decided to Tweet a salute to the brave men and women who lost their lives that day. The blogosphere outed it for the blatant, self-serving marketing message it was, and the telecom giant was forced to Tweet an apology.
HBO, White Castle and Walgreen’s also felt compelled to comment publicly about the anniversary. And, one Mississippi-based newspaper actually ran a 9/11 discount in an attempt to attract readers. All of the above are shameful, if not dumb.
And, then there were the countless Joe Six-Packs and Jane Chardonnays who felt compelled to share their personal recollections of 9/11:
- “I had just put little Bobby back into his crib, was tying my tie and, boom, I heard Katie Couric’s voice on TV, say, ‘Uh oh. Something’s definitely wrong.’ “
- “I had just emerged from the toll booth on the Goethals Bridge, and had an unobstructed view of Manhattan.”
There is no upside for brands to say something about 9/11. It comes across as self-serving, inwardly focused, inauthentic and anything BUT patriotic. As for individuals who share their personal 9/11 stories, don’t. You are the only one who cares.
Let’s let 9/11 belong to the families and friends of the victims. Let’s also allow survivors of that awful day reflect in their own way.
Enough with special sales discounts, bogus salutes to patriotism and heavy-handed shout outs to New York’s fire and police departments.
We know what happened that day and, I’m sorry, Walgreen’s, et al, but you shouldn’t be inserting yourself in someone else’s story.
When will we learn?