It's always potentially controversial when marketers tweet anything in reference to tragedy—especially when Americans are remembering, like they are today, those who died or were negatively affected on Sept. 11, 2001. Take the following tweet as an example of a growing sentiment on Twitter:
Brands: #NeverForget to take the day off today and don't cynically co-opt a tragedy from America's past in order to appear altruistic
— Rando Savage (@robrousseau) September 11, 2015
Rando Savage is far from alone. While brands have been guilty of glomming onto tragedy via social media, such ill-advised activity has given birth to a new phenomenon that may now be equally as dubious: Brand Critics. There may be more tweets today scolding companies for hashtagging #NeverForget than there are actual branded tweets.
So, in the end, both Brand Critics and the brands themselves end up trying to make a big point about how to be thoughtful on a day of sad remembrance. Sure, there's a chicken-or-the-egg aspect to it all—and marketers' bad history started the conversation.
But at this point, it's almost hard to know which side is more worthy of a rolling of the eyes, even if both parties mean well. And the Brand Critic-versus-brands debate will likely rage on during future 9/11s.
Time for the new annual tradition: Seeing which brands horribly misuse 9/11 and #NeverForget for their own selfish marketing purposes.
— Chad Hays (@_ChadHays) September 11, 2015
— Bianca Cadloni (@BiancaCadloni) September 11, 2015
I can't wait for brands to disrespect #NeverForget another year in a row.
— John Christensen (@MeJohnC) September 11, 2015
dear brands, today is not about you. shut the hell up. that's some free social media advice you should pay attention to. #neverforget
— eComm Guy (@eCommGuy) September 11, 2015
"Hey! Our product sorta looks like a tower if we turn it just so. Let's leverage 9/11 for engagements" – all brands today. #NeverForget
— James Stewart-Meudt (@JSMeudt) September 11, 2015
This happens every year, of course. And from what we've seen, the consumer brands and retail marketers—often the ones to make real-time blunders—are staying relatively quiet today. So the Brand Critics seem to have had an impact over time.
There are a few examples of #NeverForget marketing going on in just about every niche, and Macy's, American Express, Harley-Davidson, Southwest Airlines, Virgin Airlines and Domino sugar are among those tweeters.
Comparatively, media, sports and celebrity brands have been out in full force.
Check out the marketing tweets we found below. Are they in good taste, or should they have just stayed silent like the critics have been demanding? It's probably in the eye of the beholder.
— Harley-Davidson (@harleydavidson) September 11, 2015
Reflecting. Remembering. In our hearts forever. pic.twitter.com/ENW0oSyv5V
— Macy's (@Macys) September 11, 2015
— Real Simple Magazine (@RealSimple) September 11, 2015
— Cosmopolitan (@Cosmopolitan) September 11, 2015
— Southwest Airlines (@SouthwestAir) September 11, 2015
In remembrance of those who lost their lives on September 11, 2001. pic.twitter.com/9nI4EcDD6p
— Domino Sugar (@dominosugar) September 11, 2015
— Katherine Heigl (@KatieHeigl) September 11, 2015
— Playbill (@playbill) September 11, 2015
— NASA (@NASA) September 11, 2015
— San Francisco Giants (@SFGiants) September 11, 2015
— MajorLeague Lacrosse (@MLL_Lacrosse) September 11, 2015
— Pittsburgh Pirates (@Pirates) September 11, 2015