Is Piggybacking On Breaking News To Promote Your Business Ever Okay? Yep.

We mentioned before that piggybacking on trending tragedies to promote a business was ill-advised, but what about other human interest-style breaking news? If the story has a happy ending (but still a fantastically horrible beginning and middle) does that change things? Is it ever a good idea to promote your business on the back of others’ pain?

The answer is clearly no, right? Well, we have some extentuating circumstances to present for your consideration that may change your mind. Let’s see if you agree.

Unless you’ve been actively avoiding the news, you’ve heard of Charles Ramsey by now. He’s the man who helped save three girls who have been held captive in a house in Ohio for ten years.

“I heard screaming. I’m eating my McDonald’s,” Ramsey told ABC News’ Cleveland affiliate WEWS. “I come outside. I see this girl going nuts trying to get out of the house. I go on the porch and she says, ‘Help me get out. I’ve been here a long time’.”

He was eating his McDonalds.

So we had Epicurious promoting breakfast items to Bostonians after its Marathon Bombing, Kenneth Cole exploiting Cairo’s uprising and Celeb Boutique taking advantage of the mass shooting in Colorado – lots of “lessons learned” there, right? McDonalds wouldn’t go there. They couldn’t! They did:

It was retweeted and favorited countless times. It was also criticized for obvious reasons:

Understandable reactions, really.

BUT, according to ABC News, the company didn’t initiate this effort:

After thousands of people contacted McDonald’s regarding Ramsey’s rescue, on Tuesday, the corporate Twitter handle, @McDonaldsCorp tweeted:  ”We salute the courage of Ohio kidnap victims & respect their privacy. Way to go Charles Ramsey- we’ll be in touch.”

A spokeswoman for McDonald’s said on Wednesday that the company, including a local franchisee, is planning to “reach out to Mr. Ramsey directly,” but does not have specific details at this time.

“We saw an overwhelming response on Twitter calling on McDonald’s to do something,” said the spokeswoman.  ”As we committed, we will be in touch.”


Not so clear-cut now, hmm?

On one hand, we have a chain getting nonstop mentions from the most famous man in America (at this moment) and folks calling for McDonalds to recongnize him. He’s a hero for goodness sake! Come on!

And on the other hand, we risk encouraging any person who makes it into the spotlight – ever – to plug a product and await the socially accepted reward/payment for it. But is that so horrible? Dude deserves some free food for his efforts, right?

Yes, McDonalds could have given him free food quietly, but THAT could’ve backfired too, with people angry they didn’t (visibly) do anything for Ramsey. And he’s quite a character, I’m guessing he’ll enjoy being a McDonald’s spokesperson (assuming that will happen), so good for him! Here’s hoping it comes with a fat paycheck. Celebrities get huge endorsements for much less.

What do you think?

HT: @Mugsysam for bringing this tweet to our attention!

(Image from Shutterstock)