Thursday, April 19, 2007

Tragedy Marketing

Responding to events that relate to your business is smart marketing, but it helps to have some semblance of common sense. And taste.

Consider this press release from an outfit called US Netcom:

Virginia Tech President Charles Steger indicated that it would've been difficult to warn every student because most were off campus at the time.

The fact is, Mr. Steger is wrong. Automated mass emergency notification could have been used to save more than 20 lives that morning. Mass notification should have been in place that would have given students more than two hours warning of the events unfolding on campus, including notification to students with cell phones who were attending classes.

Could mass emergency phone notification have prevented such chaos? It's entirely within reason.

They even include pricing for their service. It's repulsive. I can't even imagine what they were thinking. What are these people like, as people? With their families? Do they sit at dinner and say, "Honey, we had the coolest idea today - we heard about those shootings and so we put about a press release about how our products would have prevented them!" Do they seem like nice people until something like this reveals the gaping vacuum where most people have empathy and sense of what's appropriate?

(A sharp rebuke to US Netcom can be found at The Bad Pitch Blog and Jim Hopkins at the USA Today small business blog wrote about it.)

They're not alone, of course; if you do a Google search of "Virginia Tech" you still find an ad from Rave Wireless; they've also got a press release and statement on their site. It's nothing as atrocious as what US Netcom put out, but I think they'd have been better off to have just skipped it.

I wonder, what kind of useful business activity do they get by sponsoring "Virginia Tech" on Google?

There are certainly gray areas around tragic events - particularly for the media, who often have trouble remembering when "informing" becomes "exploiting." But I don't see too much gray around US Netcom.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

How sad. Our school district used to use US Netcom's PhoneMaster product. It went down hill a while back and they stopped helping us. Now I hear they are all hype, and apparently all tasteless hype! It looks like from the blogs, the folks over at are getting what they deserve. Interesting to see how things unfold.