Marketing Ethics: Campaigning during a natural disaster
Last week, I was unable to post a blog due to the arrival of Hurricane Sandy. Fortunately, the particular area where I reside was fairly unscathed aside from numerous power outages and some fallen trees. As all of you know by now—other areas were not so lucky.
It’s amazing to see how everyone bands together in times of crisis. My social media feeds have been inundated with information about where people can drop off much needed items like food, clothing and other everyday essentials we often take for granted. In addition, people are donating blood to the American Red Cross because life still goes on and we cannot afford a dwindling supply of our figurative lifeline.
Perhaps not surprisingly, I received some peculiar “Hurricane Madness” emails—of the retail kind. I love deals and discounts … but during a hurricane? I consider this a major marketing fail, and I know that many of my fellow East Coast residents (especially those now without homes) feel the same way.
At the time, maybe these retailers didn’t realize the devastation that a lot of us faced (like I said, my area received little damage). I understand it’s important to look for opportunities everywhere and anywhere, but we must remember to practice sensitivity. We have to draw the line between effective marketing and exploitation, right? Not to mention, Black Friday promotions soon will be infiltrating our televisions and email—if they aren’t already—so save it for then.
There were the usual offenders, but even less controversial companies made some ugly headlines. For instance, Gap tweeted: “All impacted by #Sandy, stay safe! We’ll be doing lots of Gap.com shopping today. How about you?” The tweet also asked customers to check in on its Foursquare: “Frankenstorm Apocalypse – Hurricane Sandy.”
After receiving a ton of outraged responses, Gap removed the tweet and posted this update: “To all impacted by #Sandy, stay safe. Our check-in and tweet earlier were only meant to remind all to keep safe and indoors.” Kind of an apology with less enthusiastic punctuation.