News Flash: Brands Are Imperfect

There’s an irony that some of the very same people harping on brands to “join the conversation” and “engage customers” are the same who jump all over them when, inevitably, they screw up. The latest outrage: some nitwit at a service called CelebBoutique.com tweeted that “Aurora” is trending because of a dress it sells that was worn by Kim Kardashian.

We all know the fire drill at this point: Cue the retweets calling this company that hardly anyone had heard of previously and its employees monsters. Demand 20 minutes later to know why there was no apology. Start the outraged “FAIL” blog posts. Social media experts open their “Social Media Nightmares” decks for updating. On Facebook incredibly angry people arrive to threaten the brand. (One eloquent man ended his screed, “BURN.”) And it didn’t take long for The Wall Street Journal to glom on the outrage with a blow-by-blow account.

Here’s the thing: someone screwed up. Some person, probably quite young and clearly inexperienced, made a mistake. CelebBoutique.com tweeted an hour later an apology, with the explanation that it was a screwup by someone who didn’t know Aurora was the site of the Colorado shootings early this morning. The company is based in the United Kingdom, so it’s understandable that a low-level social media drone isn’t following what’s happening in Colorado.

We’ve been down this road before. Who can forget Kenneth Cole, which tweeted using the Cairo hashtag in order to flog its wares. That outrage followed a similar course. Again, someone screwed up.

The problem here is that if brands are going to act more authentic, they’re going to screw up. It’s almost as if social media has created this lynch mob on the hunt for those who get out of line. In real life, people make mistakes. Brands, if they really do embrace all this real-time social media stuff, are going to screw up. Maybe it’s time to give them a break. There’s somebody who will probably get fired, at best, for being ignorant of current events. It would seem like people should direct their energies to slightly more worthwhile causes than that.

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