When particular opportunities come knocking, savvy brands tend to peer through the keyhole and assess the situation before making the slightest move. Less mindful brands however tend to blindly swing their doors wide open, sometimes with disastrous consequences.
This is often the case when businesses attempt to align themselves with popular causes and instead of reaping the reputational benefits of the alignment, take matters too far and appear desperate, ruthless, lacking empathy, and missing the point.
Take Woolworths' catastrophic 2015 ‘Fresh in our Memories’ campaign, for example.
The premise of the campaign involved the use of images of former soldiers with the Woolworths logo and the phrase ‘Fresh in our Memories’ positioned over the top.
The company also produced an online profile picture generator, which allowed users to upload their own ancestors' pictures and conveniently have ‘Fresh in our Memories’ and a Woolworths logo placed over them.
Woolworths neglected to request ministerial approval to use the ANZAC name as well, although it avoided a fine after dropping it.
In the face of a huge public backlash, the company asserted that "like many heritage Australian companies, we were marking our respect for the ANZACs and our veterans.”
However, Woolworths' blatant attempt at connecting the phrase ‘Fresh in our memories’ with it's own tagline, ‘Fresh food people’, tends to betray this claim.
You don't need a multi-channel, extensively planned campaign to land yourself in trouble either – a simple tweet or Facebook post can just as easily do the trick.
Perhaps one of the worst examples of newsjacking (generating media coverage in parallel with a particular news item breaking) you could ever imagine occurred while millions of protesters in Cairo were attempting to overthrow Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in February 2011.
American footwear label, Kenneth Cole, tweeted the unbelievably inappropriate: "Millions are in uproar in #Cairo. Rumour is they heard our new spring collection is now available online.”
The post was later removed and label founder Kenneth Cole apologised, stating: “I’ve dedicated my life to raising awareness about serious social issues, and in hindsight my attempt at humour regarding a nation liberating themselves against oppression was poorly timed and absolutely inappropriate.”
Another infamous failed newsjacking attempt took place as Hurricane Sandy devastated large swathes of the US in October 2012.
Clothing manufacturer American Apparel foolishly posted the now notorious tweet: “In case you’re bored during the storm. 20% off everything for the next 36 hours.”
The post attracted widespread derision across the globe, especially when the company's response lacked empathy: “retail stores are the lifeline of a brand like ours, so when they are closed, we need to come up with ways to make up for that lost revenue.”
The irony being that, if in fact you were one of the millions of households without power or functioning accommodation during the crisis, you wouldn't have been able to access the internet anyway.
Boredom comes in various forms, but chances are it isn't an issue when a Category 3 super storm is breathing down your neck.