Companies need to tread lightly when it comes to marketing around a natural disaster. With Superstorm Sandy, 100+ people died worldwide and damage estimates are at $20 Billion and growing. That doesn’t make for a great marketing opportunity in most instances, but it can, if done correctly.
American Apparel caused a Twitter firestorm when they offered a Hurricane Sandy Sale. As if that wasn’t tasteless enough, their headline read “In case you’re bored during the storm.” Seriously. The company was slammed on social media with outrage and rightly so, in my humble opinion.
Closer to (my) home, and with much less publicity, a local winery committed a similar marketing faux pas. Glenora Wine Cellars offered customers a Hurricane Sandy Sale.
While not as egregious, I still thought it was in very poor taste (especially the picture). I made my opinion known on their Facebook page, commenting on their post about the promotion. Within hours, their post (along with my comment) was removed. Their website still offered the promotion, and I called them out on Twitter for it.
Arthur Catalanello (@acatalanello) October 31, 2012
Within hours, their web page promotion was removed too. What couldn’t be removed were the emails the winery sent out to their list.
So what’s a “good” way to market around a natural disaster? How about showing some compassion? How about figuring out how to help the victims through a donation of time, talent, product or service? Duracell brought charging stations to Lower Manhattan so that those without power could charge their cell phones. They’re helping victims of Hurricane Sandy and garnering positive publicity and public relations in the process.
It’s such a simple concept when you compare the positive example to the negative ones, isn’t it? Yet so many companies get it wrong. One would hope that marketers would learn from these mistakes. Sadly, history will likely repeat itself and some company will damage their image and reputation by running a tasteless promotion during the next natural disaster. Hopefully, they have a public relations department or company at their disposal. Even better would be to employ some common sense.
Want to help the victims? Below are links to various organizations assisting in the relief efforts (list not to be considered an endorsement):
Before you donate in a time of crisis, make sure you do your homework on the charitable organization. Here are some tips by Charity Navigator.