A Tale of Two Branded Tributes

When the world lost musical icon and legendary enigma Prince in late April, tributes poured in from fans all over social media for days. One of the types of events that regularly dominate social media Is when a transcendent talent passes away. Earlier this year, the death of David Bowie also captivated social media users.

Back in August, 2014, when actor and comedian Robin Williams passed away unexpectedly, his name became Google’s top trending search for that entire year—despite his death happening eight months into the year.

So what does this mean for business pages on social media? It means that these events are impactful to fans, but it doesn’t mean your brand needs to comment on the tragic circumstances. Last week after Prince’s death was confirmed, several brands took to their social channels to convey shared grief with their audience.

In theory, wanting to be a part of the conversation is not inappropriate. The manner in which you participate in that conversation is the most important consideration. Two brands, Cheerios and Chevrolet, reached both ends of the spectrum with their recent Prince tributes.

Chevrolet sharply posted a photo of a ‘Little Red Corvette’ with a lyric from the song. It was simple and impactful and didn’t make the tragedy “about” them. It was more of a winking tribute and it didn’t seem out of place or overly promotional.

On the flip side, Cheerios really tanked its branded tribute on Twitter. It was also a simple idea, the phrase ‘Rest in Peace’ over a purple background. The “crime” of the tweet, and what caused user backlash immediately, was the dotting of the “i” in the word “in” with a Cheerio.

The popular brand of cereal quickly deleted the tweet, but the social media damage was done. Fans were turned off by the overt commercialization of a death just to join the conversation. Knowing not to make the event about your brand or product is a huge part in getting a tribute right on social media.

Brands the size of Chevrolet and Cheerios likely have a full-time team of people devoted to social media. If you’re a small business owner, you simply might not have the financial flexibility to bring someone on full-time to manage your company’s social media presence. If you’re looking for a team of experienced professionals who know the absolute best practices on social media, contact us today for a consultation.