Brands paying tribute to Prince: Is this what it sounds like when doves cry?

April 22, 2016

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Lovely but is it also tacky?

The unexpected death of prince created a maelstrom of activity in the social spheres. Not surprisingly, a bunch of brands wanted to, ahem, pay their respects as well.

I definitely agree with Adfreak in that some fared better than others. Yes, to the Minnesota Viking’s (Prince’s home state) understated salute. Definitely no, to the props from Hamburger Helper. However sincere their words, the goofy Helping Hand logo makes it all insanely glib.

But the bigger question is should brands be doing this sort of thing at all? To the degree you feel advertisers can actually have “conversations” with consumers likely determines how you feel about them taking on social issues, being political, or, in this case, paying tribute to a dead person.

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An Unhelpful hand…

Part of the problem is that everything a brand says or does is, on a primary level, copy. For example, any words or pictures McDonald’s or Budweiser tweets out are, by definition, self-serving. Therefore, any attempts to “be real” must be met with skepticism.

However, as the examples in the above-linked article demonstrate, our ambivalence can at least be tempered by the use of inspired creativity or simple understatement. With few exceptions, I don’t think it’s ever eliminated. Clearly, this is infinitely harder to manage in painful circumstances (death, earthquakes, etc.) than joyful ones (winning a playoff game, birthdays, etc.) In tough times, it might be best to hold off altogether. As lovely as Jim Beam’s purple wax image is it’s still an ad. And what if, God forbid, it comes out that Prince overdosed on drugs or alcohol? That makes the connection to Jim Beam worse than awkward.

Still, if thousands upon thousands of people are willing to follow a consumer packaged goods account on Twitter or befriend a fast food restaurant on Facebook then I suppose the brands might as well give these people something other than coupons and contact information.

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