This week, tragedy struck the French capital of Paris when a series of coordinated terrorist attacks shocked the city and left over 120 dead and over 350 wounded. Around the world, religious and political reasons condemned the attacks and pledged their support of Paris in the wake of the attacks. According to a CNN article, “U.S. President Barack Obama pledged solidarity with France, saying, We’ve seen an outrageous attempt to terrorize innocent civilians.’ Pope Francis condemned the killings, saying they were a part of the ‘piecemeal Third World War.’ ‘There is no religious or human justification for it,’ he said in a telephone interview with TV2000, the television network of the Italian Bishops’ Conference.” And not long after the attacks, people across the globe began to show their solidarity through hashtags and other forms of social media. Some changed their Facebook profile pictures to be shaded with the colors of the French flag. Some posted pictures from trips they had taken to Paris. “Facebook also made available its Safety Check, which allows users and others to mark themselves safe in the wake of a disaster” (source).
And then, the brands began to get involved. Many French and international fashion brands used social media to show their support, including Ralph Lauren, Carolina Herrera, Saks Fifth Avenue and others.
Paris is one of the fashion capitals of the world, so this felt natural. It wasn’t until other brands started to get in on the action that I began to feel a little uneasy. Amazon and Starbucks changed their websites to reflect their support, as you can see below.
And I found myself wondering: is it okay to do this? There’s a reason I’m grappling with this. On the recent 9/11 anniversary, many brands posted on social media with hashtags like “Never Forget” and others. “Advertising-industry publication Digiday asked whether brands should even be tweeting about 9/11: ‘One would think that the most respectful thing a brand could do would be to not say anything at all, unless the brand’s employees or customers were in some way directly [affected] by 9/11.’ So, when would it be OK? Digiday specifically referenced a tweet from the American Red Cross, which read simply, ‘Today, we remember #september11.’ That tweet, as you might expect, drew only positive responses. The same can’t be said for one from the Los Angeles Lakers, who Ad Age said ‘seemed to realize they were treading on thin ice’ by tweeting a Kobe Bryant photo with the #neverforget hashtag as a graphical overlay. The Lakers quickly deleted the tweet” (source).
So, what do you think? Is it appropriate? Or should brands whose employees have not been directly affected by a tragedy avoid commenting?