The Top 5 Worst Hurricane Marketing Fails

One of the strongest hurricanes in recent history is headed for the East Coast. We can only hope that people don’t use Irma as a way of promoting their brand like marketers did during Hurricane Sandy. While some businesses prepared for the storm to ensure safety and survival, others used the storm as a marketing tool. Using a natural disaster as a marketing tool is not exactly the brightest idea and it certainly has its consequences. In 2012, businesses took advantage of Hurricane Sandy by using it as a reason to have a sale or to promote shopping their brand. Those sad attempts at marketing failed miserably. Here are the top 5 hurricane marketing fails during Hurricane Sandy:

  1.    American Apparel

First off, most people didn’t have power during the storm…so how were they even going to get on the internet to shop? I doubt many people saw this advertisement anyway because I am sure they were too busy ensuring their safety and survival. Second, how did this even seem like a good idea? Using a hurricane as a reason to have a sale was your first mistake but limiting it to the few states that were affected by the storm was the worst mistake of all. People affected by Sandy were trying to save their money for food, water and basic survival gear. A better idea would have been to donate a percentage of sales to those affected to help them get back on their feet.

  1.    Urban Outfitters

I don’t think I even have to explain this one… This was just wrong.

  1.    Jonathan Adler

So, if your thoughts are with all in the affected areas, why didn’t you offer your help to them instead of offering free shipping on your site. Worst of all, you tried to lighten the situation with some humor. “Storm our site.” Really? Very insensitive.

  1.    Sear’s

This was just careless, Sears. It could have been so easy to promote your brand. All you had to do was donate clothes or tools to those in need! I mean, something would have been better than nothing! You carry plenty of items that could have helped those affected, but you chose to tell people (with no way of getting to your stores) to come and get what they need instead of coming to them.

  1.    GAP

Okay, GAP. This is just a little inconsiderate. People were kind of in the middle of surviving a Category 3 hurricane and you’re asking them if they are going to indulge in some online shopping? Really? I have a feeling the brilliant person who came up with this idea may have faced some serious consequences.

Just a little tip for those of you with businesses…please don’t follow in their footsteps and make the same mistake they did. Learn from them and do something positive, like offering your help to those in need instead of trying to promote your brand.

-Emily Holt

7 thoughts on “The Top 5 Worst Hurricane Marketing Fails

  1. This is a very enjoyable yet important post to read. It has really opened my eyes on how desperate companies are to stay in touch with current events, even when it is not appropriate. They are so excited and caught up in getting their messages out there, that they forget that they could easily contribute to these causes. I’m sure those in the affected areas aren’t itching to hit Gap or Urban Outfitters sales. Brands are willing to relate their products to anything, especially if it is trending.
    Thanks for the post!

    Jennifer Mabes

  2. As I read this post, I wonder what could have possibly gone through the minds of the executives that approved these advertisements? It is definitely in poor taste and it is hard to believe that someone came up with these ideas, pitched them, wrote them up, and got them approved without stopping to think that it may not have been the best strategy. I also would like to know what the public response was to these ads? I imagine there had to be a few twitter warriors that took to the comment section. Very interesting topic, thank you for exploring this.

    Brittney Glover

  3. I personally thought this post to be hilarious. Yes, there are some extreme marketing fails in this world. When using risky topics in marketing, it’s all about where you draw the line. I disagree about the Sears post. I believe it to be a good tactic in drawing customers in. They pointed out that they had all the equipment and tools needed for safety in a hurricane, which is not ethically wrong. You have to keep in mind that it’s not only the people in danger but the local businesses too and the economy. Overall, this is a good post! Thank you for the insight.

  4. This post was so funny! I never would’ve thought that a hurricane would be used as such a light-hearted marketing tool. The Sears ad made some sense because it actually provided things one would need during a hurricane but the other ads didn’t seem to have much correlation. It does seem somewhat shallow of brands to use serious natural disaster as a tool to get people to shop for new clothes because there’s free shipping, like in the Urban Outfitter’s tweet.

  5. With some of the aftermath of Hurricane Irma still unknown, I think it’s important to shed light on the companies like this that are taking advantage of a natural disaster to promote themselves. It’s shameless. I like that you tried to lighten the mood by calling these companies out in an entertaining way but it is also something that needs a more serious focus at the same time. People think that it is a fun idea to promote their companies in times like this, and I understand that they have to survive. However, using the tragedy that is affecting other people around the world for self promotion is tacky in my opinion. In keeping up with what is going on in the caribbean right now, it is heartbreaking that some American companies are making light of the situation.

  6. This was definitely a cool idea for a blog entry; it’s a subject that I personally have mixed feelings about. When it comes to trying to capitalize off of real world tragedy, there are countless examples of corporations flubbing up and being insensitive to the point of repelling potential customers (a great, recent example would be the controversial Pepsi commercial starring Kendall Jenner that evoked imagery of protests of police brutality.) However, perhaps it’s due to my own dark sensibilities when it comes to comedy, but I think there is a sweet spot where it can work. I think the Sears tweet was a good example that was inoffensive while clearly pandering to people affected by the hurricane.

  7. Wow! I love that something catastrophic was transformed into something comedic! I appreciated the Urban Outfitters, Gap, and Sears tweets because hey, we are all thinking about doing some online shopping once we have power again, right? The only tweet that I could take seriously was by Sears since they pinpointed specific items that are necessary for the natural disaster. As awful as these are if you don’t have even an ounce of a sense of humor, they effectively grab your attention and that’s the end goal. Excellent analysis!

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