Marketing’s Post-tragedy Obligation to Society

On Monday, the world witnessed yet another senseless act of violence with the explosions during the Boston Marathon. This is one of many senseless acts of mass violence that occurs regularly throughout the world. My sincerest condolences go out to the victims and their families. As a war veteran, I’ve seen and felt the after-effects of many explosions of this nature first hand. This makes me ultra-sensitive when it comes to marketing and communication governance during and after any tragedy or disaster.

Marketing’s Post tragedy Obligation to Society image Marketings Obligation to SocietyBoston MarathonShortly after the incident, the Twittersphere lit up with marketers and others demanding that brands turn off their promotional tweets out of respect for the victims and to avoid accidental gaffes. This felt like the appropriate thing to do and marketers throughout the country followed suit.

However, hours later, that decision started to raise many questions in my mind – questions I didn’t have any answers for. For example:

  • Is Twitter the only marketing channel that should be shut off?
  • Why didn’t we shut off our lead nurturing and marketing automation?
  • What about television and radio commercials?
  • Do we cancel our sales meetings and trade show appearances?
  • Are PPC ads targeted towards Boston Marathon searches inappropriate now?
  • Should we stop blogging, too?
  • What about all of the brands that sponsored the event? Do they pull their signage and swag?

I was truly torn when contemplating the answers to these questions. If the answer the first question is no, than where does it stop? Should all marketing and sales activities cease? If the answer is yes, then why just Twitter?

This opened up a rabbit hole for my analytical marketing mind. Each question seemed to bring up two or more questions – none of which I had a logical answer for.

  • For how long should marketing and sales channels be shut off?
  • Are we so desensitized to outbound marketing channels as a society that turning them off or leaving them on has no impact on our impression of a brand post-tragedy?
  • Is the relative newness of social media the reason it’s targeted to be turned off?
  • Is it the real-time nature of social media that makes it a target? If it is, should outbound calling be terminated as well?
  • Why should this tragedy be treated this way, and not others?
  • Does the size and breadth of the tragedy determine how many channels should be shut off?
  • Is it just U.S. tragedies, or should brands be globally concerned?
  • Who determines these things? Communities, brands or individual marketing professionals?

You’ll notice the words “logical” and “felt” above are both in italics. That’s because there doesn’t seem to be logical lines in the sand for determining the answers to any of the questions above. The only barometer for making decisions to shut off one or more marketing channels seems to be feelings.

Unfortunately, I don’t have the answers to the questions above. I’m interested in hearing how you would answer the questions above? What do you believe is marketing’s post-tragedy obligation to society, if any? Should I continue to rely on my gut and social media chatter for making these decisions? Is there a better way?

Image Credit: Mark Z

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