Marketing Etiquette During a Crisis

The blasts in Boston earlier this week left three people dead and more than 170 injured. US President Barack Obama has condemned the twin bombing at the Boston Marathon as a “terrorist act”.
Swiftly after the news broke on Monday, social media (Twitter especially) was rife with commentary, advice and condolences.  My news-feed was inundated with breaking news and updates related to the tragic events. However, alongside the facts and well-wishers I couldn’t help but notice a few brands still promoting, selling and happily chirping their marketing messages.

It’s a well-known fact that many of us who manage any sort of marketing activity for commercial purposes often use scheduling tools to save a little time and make our jobs a little easier. However, promotional messages and updates do seem rather inappropriate at times of tragedy.

net etiquette So, what should brands do?

Anyone who manages marketing activities for a brand or business should take responsibility for immediately deactivating any scheduled messages (whether on Twitter, Facebook or indeed via email) as soon as an event occurs.

But above and beyond that, is it appropriate for brands to talk about or reference tragedies like the one we’ve recently witnessed in Boston at all?

While I’m aware that this is an email marketing blog, social media has produced some pretty awful faux pas following the Boston blasts. As marketers I’m sure that we can agree social media is just another communications vehicle that organizations deploy, lots of the principles are the same as email marketing and the platform is merely the vehicle for delivery.  It is for that reason that I felt compelled to share with you this (social media) example of what not to do following a tragedy:

Insensitive beyond belief:

Twitter users have crowned @epicurious winner of the insensitive Boston piggyback. Epicurious, according to their Twitter profile are ‘the ultimate food site for people who love to eat. Shortly after the bombings they tweeted:


As a result they were bombarded with tweets from angry followers who disapproved of their ‘insane idea to capitalize on the Boston tragedy to link to recipes’.

They did swiftly issue an apology, but the ‘cut and pasted’ stock apology seemed to rile up the twittersphere even more.


So, in the face of a disaster, should a business or brand adapt their marketing efforts at all?

Here are our thoughts on the matter, if you have any points to add please let us know in the comments below:
·    Out of respect consider taking a day off from the sales push

·    Instead, if appropriate, send out carefully timed genuine concern, condolences, and support where the tragedy is relevant to your business (i.e you have staff, clients affected)

·    If it doesn’t seem appropriate for you to comment then remember that sometimes, silence really is golden

·    As mentioned above, be aware of your pre-planned and scheduled content. Evaluate whether it is appropriate to the situation following the tragedy.

·    Before saying ANYTHING, check in with a trusted news source and see what they’re reporting – there’s so much false information out there, make sure you’re not echoing any of it. Danny Sullivan wrote this useful post Hurricane Sandy on how to get information after a major news event.

Have you received any emails that mentioned the Boston bombings? What did they say? How did you feel about them? Let us know in the comments section below – we always read and respond to all comments.

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