Like many of you, I’ve been moved by the news coming out of Iran. The Iranians’ struggles against the Tehran-backed security forces and their authoritarian government is a struggle we all should be following.
And many of us are. Which is why one bonehead charged with marketing a UK-based furniture store called “Habitat” decided to exploit the situation…to, what else, sell furniture.
According to a June 24 story in the BBC, Habitat recently started a Twitter campaign and on more than one occasion used the Iranian situation to its advantage. One Twitter post read:
“#MOUSAVI Join the database for free to win a £1,000 gift card!”
For those of you not familiar with Twitter-ease, the number sign, called a “hash tag,” is a way to improve the likelihood that your post will be seen. In other words, when someone searches for “Mousavi” on Twitter, the tweets with hashtags will be viewable first. It’s like SEO for Twitter.
For those of you not familiar with Mousavi, he’s the guy many people say ought to be the legitimate president of Iran. His “defeat,” and the regime’s refusal to let outsiders view election results, is what’s ultimately driving the revolution and subsequent crackdown.
Unless Habitat has a new line of leather sectionals called Mousavi, and I’m pretty sure that’s not the case, then this thoughtless–and soulless–act will undoubtedly cause uproar. As it should.
And it is.
Alex Burmaster, communications director at research firm Nielsen Online, harshly criticized the tactic.
“They have used a political and human situation that many people are concerned about to market their products and services and that is not right,” Burmaster told the BBC.
A search for #Habitat yields similar results.
Well, it turns out Habitat has issued an apology:
“We would like to make a very sincere apology to any users who were offended by last week’s activity on Twitter…” the company told the BBC. “This was absolutely not authorised by Habitat. We were shocked when we discovered what happened and are very sorry for the offence that has been caused.”
The company did not, however, give details on who was responsible. A clueless PR firm? A green intern? A rogue employee?
In the meantime, let this be a lesson for anyone remotely considering exploiting human tragedy for corporate gain: If social media has the power to mobilize a revolution for freedom, it also has the power to mobilize a revolution against bonehead marketing decisions.