Sometimes brands do things that are so dumb it’s hard to know if they’re satire. This one comes right out of a bad joke on “Weekend Update” and it courtesy of the folks at Dunkin’ Donuts. They are an official sponsor of Liverpool, a legendary team in the Barclays Premier League. The club’s hands aren’t clean in this stupidity either.
As you can see from the graphic, Dunkin’ altered the club’s official shield to sell coffee. They replaced the two eternal flames you see with coffee cups. Unfortunately, no one, either at the club or in Dunkin’s marketing depratment, pointed out that those flames memorialize the 96 people who died in the 1989 Hillsborough disaster. They replaced the club’s motto – You’ll Never Walk Alone – with America Runs On Dunkin’. Fans openly weep as the song is sung before club matches, as it has been for half a century. I’m not sure the Dunkin’ slogan has quite the same meaning.
You might expect there to have been a backlash. That’s an understatement. The response was so widespread and overwhelmingly negative that Dunkin’ issued the following statement:
“We apologize for any insensitivity regarding our tweet supporting an LFC-themed promotion featuring the LFC Crest,” said the statement. “As a proud partner of LFC, we did not intend any offence, particularly to the Club’s supporters. We have removed the tweet and halted the campaign immediately.”
Nice job responding and doing damage control. However, some genius at Dunkin’ thought this was clever. Another genius at LFC had to have approved it – my years in sports remind me that every team-related campaign required an approval. Of course, these aren’t the only tone-deaf folks in marketing. I’ll remind you of The Gap, Urban Outfitters, American Apparel and others who blasted out emails and tweets after Hurricane Sandy full of hurricane puns and special Sandy Sales. Who can forget Kenneth Cole‘s saying the Arab Spring riots were over one of their sales?
We can be edgy in advertising. We can’t be tone-deaf. We can’t make fun of tragedy nor can we try to exploit it to make a buck. Maybe everyone at DD headquarters had too much coffee that day and needs to switch to decaf?