High Jacking the News – Hurricane Sandy Edition

Marketoonist notes: Marketers often try to tap what’s happening in the news. The reasoning is that if they can take over water cooler conversations, their brand message will travel that much faster.

Yet many brands misfired last week during Hurricane Sandy. In an attempt to capitalize on the storm news, they outraged consumers with self-serving and insensitive promotions.

Gap used the #Sandy Twitter hashtag to promote shopping on Gap.com and asked customers to check in on its “Frankenstorm Apolocalypse – Hurricane Sandy” Foursquare. American Apparel targeted customers in the nine stricken states who were “bored” at home. Here’s a collection of The 9 Biggest Brand Fails Exploiting Hurricane Sandy, including Urban Outfitters and Jonathan Adler.

Yet other brands rose to the occasion. Duracell and Tide (both P&G brands) found ways to help those in need, generating a tremendous amount of goodwill while doing a good thing. Duracell sent charging stations to Lower Manhattan to charge people’s mobile phones and devices. Tide provided free laundry services on a mobile truck equipped with 32 washers and dryers.

The difference in these two approaches comes down to brand purpose. Many brands don’t have a clear understanding of “why” they exist in consumers’ lives. The American Apparel CEO unapologetically justified their self-serving Sandy Sale by saying “what you want to do in these events is keep the wheels of commerce going”.

Duracell and Tide, in contrast, found ways to deepen the impact they make on consumers’ lives. “Tide has learned that the little things – like clean clothes – can make a big difference to those who have lost the comforts of home.”

How brands act during a disaster like Hurricane Sandy is a litmus test for meaningful brands. Brands with a purpose stand for more than just a 20% off promotion or free shipping. They stand for their consumers.

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