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By now most have heard about the latest high profile social media goof, this time the credit goes to American Apparel with their Hurricane Sandy Sale, just in case we get bored during the storm. Now, obviously as we should have learned already from Kenneth Cole, it's never a good idea to make light of someone else's misfortune in order to promote your products or services. How someone even came up with "in case you’re bored during the storm." as appropriate ad copy to target toward people in the middle of a natural disaster is beyond me. Even without the ad copy, the very concept of this sale is a bad idea. The only way to possibly swing this in the right direction is to position it as being helpful to the people who have lost their homes and everything they have in the world to this storm. However, considering a 20% discount isn't exactly humanitarian aid, that's not a good idea either. Huh. Well, it's almost like there's no good way to position this without it looking stupid and insensitive...

"Hey Ted, what are you up to?"

"Nothing much, just headed into town for American Apparel 's Hurricane Sandy Sale!"

-Said no one, ever.


That's why I have one actionable rule here that will help any brand avoid making this same type of mistake ever again. Natural disasters, revolutions, any event in which large numbers of people may lose their lives or all of their worldly possessions, are never to be used as part of an ad campaign, discount offer, email blast, or any other type of promotion. In fact, unless you are expressing your concerns for those affected or are helping them in some way (I mean really helping, not giving them a discount coupon code), then you shouldn't even mention the event on your social media channels. I feel absolutely ridiculous writing that rule, but it seems my peers are in need of a bit of guidance, so there it is.

Post by Zachary Chastain
Nov 1, 2012