Where is the line drawn?

By: Jordan Ross

As many people are now aware of, on April 21, 2016, the world lost arguably one of the greatest musicians to ever live, with the death of Prince Rogers Nelson—otherwise known as just Prince. The music that Prince created over his illustrious career touched millions of people around the entire world. So many people were affected by the news of this great loss. After Prince’s death, there were many companies that wanted to pay tribute to the fallen musician, but some were received more positively than others.

Jordan's Blog Pic

Source: Advertising Age

The well-known cereal brand Cheerios ran a tribute on its Twitter page that read, “Rest in Peace,” where the “i” was dotted with a single Cheerio in front of a purple background. The tweet was posted only a few hours after the news broke that Prince died. While the company’s social media team may have thought it would be a clever way to honor the untimely death of Prince, the majority of the public did not view the tribute in that way.

Many people viewed the tweet as Cheerios capitalizing on the tragic news and using the tribute as an advertisement for its own product. When someone dies, especially only hours after the news is out, most people are still in the grieving process. The time when people are grieving over someone they loved who just died is not the time to promote your own product, at least in the public’s viewpoint. It comes off as being in poor taste and can harm the reputation the company holds in the public eye.

As a result of the backlash, the company deleted the tweet only several hours after it was posted. Although the tweet was deleted, once something is on the Internet it never goes away. Since that is the case, the backlash that Cheerios faced may last for quite a while.

Cheerios was not the only company that posted a tribute to Prince on their social media pages. As a matter of fact, some of the tributes were well-received by the public. One of those was a Chevrolet tribute. The company tweeted out the quote, “Baby, that was much too fast,” with a picture of a vintage red Corvette, in reference to Prince’s 1983 hit “Little Red Corvette.”

Jordan's Blog Pic 2

Source: Chevrolet’s Twitter Page

The public viewed Chevrolet’s tribute much more positively since it actually alluded to one of Prince’s songs, and the fact that it wasn’t a blatant advertisement for its product. Instead of featuring a brand new model of the Corvette in the picture, they decided to use an older model. If the company tried to showcase one of its newest products, the public’s reaction might’ve been similar to that of Cheerios.

As seen in both examples, there is a fine line between what is viewed in good taste and what is not. While speed is important, with every company wanting to be the first one to cover a story, it’s also important to think things through before you take action. Since Cheerios was one of the first companies to post their tribute, they will have to deal with the backlash of that decision for the foreseeable future. Chevrolet, on the other hand, waited a little longer to post their tribute. As a result, they created good publicity for their brand due to taking the time to think through what they were going to do. Sometimes, the early bird catches the worm, but also remember that the second mouse gets the cheese.

Jordan Ross is a senior at Eastern Michigan University majoring in public relations and minoring in communications. Jordan is in his first semester serving as the Vice President of Professional Development for EMU’s Eleanor Wright chapter of PRSSA. Jordan is also a member of EMU’s Honors College and serves as the President of the EMU Student Center Student Employee Advisory Committee. You can find Jordan on Twitter @__JordanRoss.

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