HOLLA Dayz: 9/11 Edition

Sep 12 • Culture • 3614 Views

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“HOLLA Dayz” is a regular series covering the best media surrounding holidays or occasions worth talking about.  Brands, people, bots – they’re all fair game.  See how others are celebrating socially and what you can learn from their messages!


September 11, 2001 is a tragic day in American history.  U.S. citizens lost their lives, their loved ones and their sense of safety in their own country.  In the 13 years since that fateful day, America has regained its strength and hope, but a somber mood still envelops the nation every year on the anniversary of the attacks on the World Trade Center. While Americans remember the fallen citizens and the heroes who fought to save them, there’s really not much more to say about the dark day in American history.


Even so, every year brands try to commemorate the occasion, particularly on social media. The problem is, every brand message is just about the same – a stock image of a flag or the former World Trade Center towers, with a cheesy message along the lines of “We will always remember September 11, 2001” or “#NeverForget …”


Take a look:



Others tried to commemorate 9/11 and failed miserably. They just didn’t get it. If you’re going to post about the event, at least be respectful and don’t promote your own products or a sale.



The real question is, should brands participate in September 11th conversations on social media at all? As a social media specialist at Splash Media, I can say we struggled with that very issue for our clients as well. The ultimate decision was this: while brands want to be a part of important and relevant national conversations, if you don’t have something unique to add — especially on a day as somber as 9/11 — don’t participate at all.


Other brands seemed to agree. Target, for example, went dark, and didn’t post a public tweet on their timeline at all on September 11.  Neither did Microsoft, IKEAUSA, Paramount Pictures, PetSmart and a variety of other smart brands.


Some brands avoided the subject altogether, instead engaging in other conversations or social media topics.  Ford posted a TBT tweet of their vehicles from 1965, while Procter&Gamble chose to ignore the topic of 9/11.



Of course, there are some “brands” who SHOULD be discussing September 11th on social media, such as the White House, which posted a variety of tweets covering their memorial service, President Obama’s statements, and more. Other political and government agencies joined in the conversation, such as the NYFD and NYPD, which tweeted out memorials to all their fallen officers.



These tweets were appropriate given the organizations’ involvement in 9/11, but the rest of the marketing world needs to take a step back on the somber day. Perhaps Sean Bonner said it best in his interview with AdFreak:


“Brands are not people. Brands do not have emotions or memories or condolences or heartbreak. People have those things, and when a brand tries to jump into that conversation, it’s marketing.”Sean Bonner


He continued: “… in a less emotionally charged environment it’s just dumb. But when talking about a tragedy that resulted in way too many people actually dying, it’s icky x 1000.”


Seriously, there’s no way for a brand to ‘insert themselves into a conversation’ about a tragedy like this without it being bad.  STFU. That’s the best option. Today (or whatever other tragedy this kind of thing has happened with) isn’t the time for marketing. It isn’t the time for branding or getting people to pay attention to companies. It’s a time for people to interact with each other, and the only respectful thing for brands to do is stay out of it and wait for tomorrow to get back to business.”


Amen, Sean, amen. You’re preaching to the choir, but hopefully the rest of the marketing world will catch on by next year too.


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