When human tragedies occur, many citizens want to express their indignation or their support through social media. If the fact that individuals react is legitimate, one may wonder if the same is true for brands. Can brands or should they react to tragic news such as an attack or human disaster?

Note : this article only deals with “emotional” reactions of commercial brands. “Service communications” which aim to inform that a particular event has an impact on a brand’s ability to serve its customers are irrelevant.

Yes because…

A business is business, but not only … Behind the banner, there are workers who may feel the need to see their employer relay their feelings. This desire is all the more legitimate if the company is directly impacted by the news, if workers of the company or members of their families are among the victims for example.

Legitimacy can also be sectoral, as in the case of “Charlie Hebdo”; all media companies – in the broadest sense of the term – felt in solidarity with their colleagues.

Brand communication

By extension, a brand that has largely built its identity on the promotion of very strong social responsibility could legitimately react if the symbols representing these values ​​were to be directly affected.

The last “legitimate” case would be that of the community trademark (in the sociological sense) which is aimed at a hyper-targeted audience and who would truly have a connection with the victims (who would also be the core target). What affects consumers also affects the brand, and vice versa.

One can also imagine that a brand could be “forced” to react. Either because it is directly challenged by Internet users (” why don’t you show your solidarity? “), Or because she is afraid of being the only one not reacting to a fact.

For this last scenario, I think however that a brand with a well-controlled communication should be able to easily avoid or at least neutralize this type of situation.

No because…

In today’s world, human disasters are unfortunately daily: either the brand is indignant continuously … or it shows indignation and selective solidarity.

If we can understand that the events in Paris particularly affect French brands, it is more difficult to defend a company with a quasi-global presence which would only take up the cause of certain victims.

Could we accept that Coca Cola is “Charlie” or “Beirut”, but not “Paris”?

Communicating on hot news is also exposing yourself in a meaningful and non-neutral way … It is therefore taking the risk of undergoing a “flashback” on the part of Internet users.

src=”https://cwtadvertising.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/1578700068_519_▷-Disasters-attacks…-Should-brands-communicate-2020.png” sizes=”(max-width: 300px) 100vw, 300px” srcset=”https://cwtadvertising.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/1578700068_519_▷-Disasters-attacks…-Should-brands-communicate-2020.png 268w, https://www.webmarketing-com.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/charlie2-300×503.png 300w, https://www.webmarketing-com.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/charlie2-250×420.png 250w, https://www.webmarketing-com.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/11/charlie2.png 561w” alt=”Brand communication” width=”300″ height=”503″ />At best, the brand would be accused of wanting to advertise on the backs of the victims (example of the 3 Swiss). At worst, she could be accused of responsibility for the case. It doesn’t take long to figure out why Mango, Benetton, Primark and JC Penney did not display an “I am Bangladesh” logo after the Rana Plazza collapsed.

Even if the brand is not responsible, it could suffer the wrath of Internet users because of other questionable practices. This is the case of Starbucks which affirms its solidarity with England, but which prefers to avoid paying its taxes there.

One can also accuse a brand of “playing politics” by positioning itself in relation to the claim underlying the attack or by using a vocabulary capable of being interpreted in various ways. For example, the #PrayforParis Hashtag has sparked some negative reactions from atheist communities.

The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the archetype of the politically too sensitive subject (too divisive as the marketers say) for brands to dare to communicate on it.

Conclusion

It is common to say “at the office we don’t talk about politics”. Personally and in most cases, I am in favor of applying the same principle to the entire professional sphere, including in relations between a brand and consumers.

If we are not an activist brand or if we are not directly concerned by the facts, a company should by default refrain from reacting to news as tragic as it is. Why ?

  • Because it is a priori not legitimate;
  • To avoid being charged with recovery;
  • Not to provide an opportunity to be attacked on other fronts;
  • To avoid being part of a possible divide between the “for” and the “against”.

But if the decision to communicate still had to be made, I would give 5 tips:

Brand communication

  1. Favor sober and factual communication. No need to fall into verbal overbidding;
  2. Avoid logo modifications or hazardous visuals conducive to all diversions;
  3. React quickly (within 24 hours) or not react at all …
  4. Monitor the reactions of Internet users and that Community managers are ready. Even the world’s best intentions can be misinterpreted and subject to harsh criticism;
  5. Be certain that the position is assumed and fully aligned with values ​​and actions of the company. In other words, be prepared to defend your legitimacy clearly and simply.

In the event that a brand feels obliged to react under the pressure of its customers, we will recommend the opening of a space for dialogue at the service of Internet users rather than one-way communication which risks doing a little too much “because it must be so “.

Brand communication

In all cases : Make sure your pre-programmed campaigns don’t risk delivering a message that would have become completely inappropriate under the circumstances!

When, on November 14, you receive an ad in your mailbox for “Discover Paris from € 39” … that doesn’t really make you laugh.