Australia: 9/11 social media campaign puts Miracle Mattress in the headlines for all the wrong reasons

It is often said "All publicity is good publicity, as long as they spell your name right." To a certain extent that quote is true. Good publicity could be a quick and cheap way to build brand awareness and promote any business. Unfortunately the same cannot be said for bad publicity. One company has recently learnt the hard way that being in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons could undo a lifetime of building and developing a good brand and reputation, and in some cases, that damage may be unfixable.

Miracle Mattress, a company based in San Antonia, Texas, drew outrage and widespread condemnation in the wake of their 2016 "9/11 Twin Towers Sale."

A YouTube clip for the promotion was posted across the company's social media channels. The clip features two stacks of mattresses which are knocked over when employees fall into them while a woman screams before she looks into the camera and says "We'll never forget."

The clip "commemorated" the 15-year anniversary of the terror atrocity in which 2,606 people lost their lives on 11 September, 2001.

The internet backlash was fast and ferocious with thousands taking to their keyboards to condemn the company's actions.

Miracle Mattress was quick to respond with this candid letter from the business owner:

The company also posted the following on their facebook page:

The company re-opened its doors a week after indefinitely closing them, issuing a second letter explaining the lessons they had learnt from the incident:

What can you learn from the Miracle Mattress fiasco?

Well, the three lessons that Miracle Mattress outlined in their letter are a good starting point:

  • Don't try to capitalise on tragedy (you can read more about this in one of our previous blogs);
  • Social media is far reaching. If something goes viral, it has a far greater reach than just your customer base and it's a shocking way to create a first impression and introduce your business to the wider community; and,
  • Everything that your business promotes, says or does is a reflection of the brand. As Mike said, this one misjudgment undermines years of work that the company has dedicated to community pursuits.

What else can you take away from this?

Pick your spokesperson carefully

As we've said, everything that your business puts out into the digital domain reflects its brand. While Miracle Mattress has said that it will hire new staff and provide staff training, many have asked why his daughter Cherise (the infamous screaming woman in the clip) was placed in a position of marketing the company in the first place if her approach does not align with theirs.

Actions speak louder than words

The company has continued its work in the community, giving mattresses away for free to vulnerable members of the community, and as the owner of the company, Mike has taken responsibility for the social media misstep.

However, Cherise's continued appearance in promoting Miracle Mattress is not going down well with online users:

Test it before you upload it

It goes without saying that you should have a well-defined media strategy. As part of this you should have a process around developing and reviewing any social media campaign. Key questions to ask yourself include:

  • Does this align with my brand?
  • Could this be misinterpreted?
  • How do I want this campaign (and my business) to be remembered?

Test your campaign before you make it live so you can establish whether the reaction that you receive is the one that you're hoping for. If not, return to the drawing board. Also, you need to remember that not everyone shares the same sense of humour so make sure you test your campaign against a broader range of people than your existing staff members.

Respond quickly but thoughtfully

Miracle Mattress responded quicky, with a well-considered letter which was posted in full on their social media channels. If you are unfortunate enough to experience a social media fail like this, it is important that you address comments and feedback promptly – even if it is a short one line to explain that you will be responding in full within an allocated timeframe. Above all, be authentic. Dismissing people's concerns will only damage your business further.

Since the campaign, hundreds have flooded the Miracle Mattress facebook page with one star reviews, photos of those who lost their lives in 9/11 and calls to boycott the business. While the company is still in operation, only time will tell if they will be able to recover long-term...

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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