Ah, September: School’s back in session, the leaves are starting to turn, pumpkin and maple flavors become omnipresent, there’s a cooling of the air . . . and the 9/11 brand tweets come roaring back.
Ever since the first anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, brands have been trying to figure out how to commemorate it.
Holidays and anniversaries are typically a time for brands to turn the hype up and stoke those sales–BACK TO SCHOOL! HALLOWEEN! BLACK FRIDAY! CHRIIIIIIIIIISTMAAAAAASSSS! When even minor festivals such as St. Patrick’s Day and Columbus Day come in for this kind of all-caps marketing blitz, it can be tough to dial it down or recognize that some anniversaries should perhaps be free of commercial interference.
If you Google “brands and 9/11,” it becomes clear that the high-water mark of impatience with this phenomenon was 2014. That’s the year with the most media coverage of how brands reacted to 9/11–and the backlash, rage, and hilarity that ensued.
Not that everyone showed great restraint before or after 2014.
The least offensive tactic is simply an American flag, or a shot of the New York skyline, with a simple variation on “Never forget.” Not necessary, and no one asked to hear from these brands, but okay, it’s not patently inappropriate.
More egregious is something like AT&T in 2013, when it got in trouble for shoehorning in some product placement, but quickly deleted its post and apologized. Or this ill-advised Coca-Cola display that popped up in a Panama City, Florida, Walmart in 2016.