At times like these, I can’t help but think of SpaghettiOs.
Back in 2013, major food and beverage brands were hopping onto Twitter with a previously unseen fervor, eager to get in on the conversation and kick off hashtag-based promotions like never before. Canned pasta brand SpaghettiOs joined the platform in February 2013, and by December, the account reached a major milestone: its very first gaffe-deletion-apology cycle.
“Take a moment to remember #PearlHarbor with us,” the brand tweeted on December 7, 2013, a day which will now live in infamy for another reason entirely. Attached to the tweet was an image of the animated SpaghettiOs mascot (a giant SpaghettiO with a face, arms, and legs) waving an American flag and licking its chops. By the end of the day, the tweet was gone, and the brand had issued an apology.
“We meant to pay respect, not to offend,” the statement read. Of course, we believe it. There’s nothing malicious about the initial tweet; it just shows the limits of what a branded Twitter account is able to (or even meant to) accomplish, and the wide array of subjects that are best avoided entirely. Chief among them: the death of a very, very, very famous monarch.
Queen Elizabeth II died today at age 96, and while virtually every media outlet has been tasked with memorializing her 70 years on the throne, absolutely no food or beverage brand should feel any pressure to do so, least of all within the span of a tweet. Domino’s UK was early out of the gate with a solemn white-on-black text-based image.
“Everyone at Domino’s joins the nation and the world in mourning the death of Queen Elizabeth II,” the text reads. “Our thoughts and condolences are with the Royal Family.”
Not that this isn’t a lovely sentiment and all, but... Domino’s? We’re confident the Queen had never even heard of you before. Sorry for how sure we are of that.
Even if Queen Elizabeth II were an unassailable and universally beloved figure throughout the world, which she is not, I can’t think of a person on earth who would expect a chain pizzeria to comment on her passing. If Domino’s had simply ceased to tweet for a few days surrounding the loss of the Queen, giving the news cycle some time to breathe before announcing any new menu items or promotions, it would take a real unhinged individual to not only notice the brand’s social media pause, but to say, “Wow, Domino’s silence on this matter is deafening.”
At their worst, these types of tweets are a cynical attempt to stay in the conversation when everyone’s focus strays too far from, say, delivery pizza. At their best, they’re still an off-putting break from an otherwise carefully cultivated brand identity and tone, especially on Twitter, where as a corporate entity it pretty much only pays to be horny.
Thankfully, each time there’s a significant news event of any stripe, more and more brands seem to be catching on to the whole “don’t post” option available to them. Let that be a lesson for all of us, not just those with a robust communications team.