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When marketing stunts go wrong

Published April 16, 2014 at 9:12 am

Sometimes when a story is trending, savvy marketers find a way to ride the trend as part of a campaign. When executed skillfully, the result can draw a lot of attention. If an ad strikes a chord with an audience, it can spawn parodies and imitators, resulting in a flurry of posts and even YouTube videos. However, even though these types of campaigns may be successful, they may also draw criticism.

Lately, the “selfie” trend has been popular, especially following the success of the selfie taken by Ellen at the Academy Awards, which was taken with a Samsung phone and became the most retweeted photo of all time.

According to a recent Adweek article, when baseball player David Ortiz met with President Obama and decided it was a photo opportunity, it turned into a problematic marketing stunt. Ortiz is a brand ambassador with Samsung, and without letting the President know this, used their selfie to promote the brand on Twitter. Although the photo was popular online, it posed a problem because the President’s image is not supposed to be used to promote a product, especially without consent.

CNN reported that Ortiz tweeted the photo and then Samsung retweeted it to 5.2 million followers. Since President Obama reportedly was unaware of the endorsement deal or that the selfie would be used for marketing purposes, the company got in trouble with the White House because it is generally against policy to allow the President’s image to be used for product endorsements.

People love their phones and love taking selfies, which makes this idea a good marketing stunt. However, Samsung may have taken it too far by involving a prominent world leader. When executed skillfully, a social marketing idea can do a lot for a company. The lesson here is to be of careful whose image is being used, and be sure to receive permission before using it.

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