Brands can’t always control how people use their products, but, as we saw with Snapchat in April, they still have to deal with the fallout when things go wrong. Other brands head into crises due to their own actions – such as tweeting a somewhat self-promotional tribute to a dead pop icon, or by making a mistake with a product launch and failing to define the right message once the crisis takes hold.

These are the reputation issues that caught our attention in April.

Snapchat’s filter problem

We’ve seen that when Snapchat filters are used well, they can get brands a lot of positive media coverage and generate great conversations online. But some filters get noticed for all the wrong reasons.

On 20th April, which is apparently also known as “weed day”, Snapchat released the Bob Marley filter. Users could snap a quick photo and apply a filter that would sort of morph them into the late reggae icon. But this resulted in a social and mainstream media debate about whether or not the brand had promoted the use of blackface. Snapchat’s response was to say that it had created the filter in conjunction with the Bob Marley Estate (but that didn’t seem to make those who found it offensive feel any better).

Later in the month, a car crash victim sued Snapchat for negligence. It’s alleged that the other driver was using the Snapchat speed filter when she crashed intro the other car, severely injuring the car’s occupant. Snapchat told the Independent that it “actively discouraged” people from using the app while driving and displayed a warning note on the app telling people not to “snap and drive”.

Why sometimes the best response is silence

Brands are so used to having content ready whenever a major event happens – such as the Super Bowl or the birth of a royal baby – that sometimes they rush to produce reactionary content without seeming to consider what they are reacting to.

The sudden death of Prince made headlines around the world, and millions of people expressed their shock and sadness on social media. But when Cheerios posted its tribute on social media, it was derided.

https://twitter.com/stevekovach/status/723230991494598656

Celebrity death isn’t just another red carpet event that everyone chats about on Twitter. Brands trying to join any conversation about death, especially by using it to promote their own products, will usually be seen as trying to run in and grab a share of the spotlight.

When the cool promotion goes wrong

In celebration of #AlienDay426, Reebok released new trainers inspired by sci-fi legend Ellen Ripley. What should have been a great launch turned into a bit of a social media storm on 26th April, as women began to report that the awesome new trainers, designed to match the boots worn by said female lead character, were only available in men’s sizes.

Ouch.

Gizmodo reported a statement from Reebok:

“The Alien Stompers were released in men’s sizes due to retail demand.”

It then updated its article when Reebok contacted them to say that the person they spoke to “was not authorized to give a statement”. It then gave them a second statement:

“The Alien Stomper was mis-categorized on our US website as a men’s shoe. While size availability varied by market, the Alien Stomper is a unisex style and was produced in sizes (US Men’s) 3.5 – 12, which is a typical size range for a unisex model.”

Neither Gizmodo, nor the LA Times could actually find the shoes in the smaller sizes.

Whatever Reebok’s intensions with the release of trainers inspired not only by the Alien franchise, but Ripley specifically, it could have handled its response to fans confusion and disappointment in a better way. Ripley is one of only a handful of strong lead female characters in popular culture, and for the brand to give the impression that it’s excluded women from wearing the trainers modelled on her is a problem (which is just compounded when you see the confusion of the brand’s statements).

What stories caught your attention in April?

Gemma is Polpeo’s Content Specialist. She develops the crisis storylines and writes social content for Polpeo. She is the principal voice of Polpeo on Twitter, and blogs on PR Examples and carrotcomms.co.uk/blog.

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