Fly spray brand Mortein has pulled a Facebook post which showed its mascot, Louie the fly, voicing his sympathy for murdered schoolteacher Stephanie Scott.
The post depicted Louie in front of purple vest hanging outside a wardrobe as the company looked to join the #putoutyourdress hashtag movement started on social media.
While drawing largely positive comments on its Facebook page, the image also attracted complaints that Mortein was exploiting a social media movement in order to sell its product. Mortein later took the post down and issued an apology.
Another post which showed Louie posing with the late Richie Benaud with the words: “RIP #Richie Benaud old mate. You were truly marvellous” was also removed.
A spokesperson said of the #putoutyourdress post: “Mortein would like to sincerely apologise to anyone who has taken offence to the post on our Facebook page today. A majority of our audience responded favourably but in hindsight it is not a conversation we should have engaged in. We have removed the post.”
The posts have reopened the debate on where and when brands should enter conversations with social media experts warning brands to carefully select how they engage with audiences to avoid a consumer backlash.
Nicola Swankie, managing director of communications agency Society, said joining conversations is good business practice provided brands add a relevant voice to the topic.
“Brands are always looking for topical events to say something about, so they can jump on that wave,” she told Mumbrella. “They are looking to build their brand, get more reach and leverage social media to hit more eyeballs.
“That’s fine when it’s something positive, such as the movement around the Sydney Seige (#Illridewithyou hashtag) which was showing support for a community. But when it’s something extremely sensitive that could be seen as taking advantage of someone’s terrible tragedy for their own benefit then it can backfire.
“That seems to have been the case here.”
Swankie said brands need to ask themselves who they are, what they do and what values they represent before deciding which social conversations to enter.
There needs to be relevance between the brand and issue they are commenting on and add some value to the conversation, she added. The relevance between a fly spray brand and a social movement concerning the murder of a schoolteacher is not obviously apparent, Swankie said.
The fact that a cartoon fly is commenting on such a tragic event comes across as “flippant”, she added.
“Brands such as Samsung and the Commonwealth Bank have dealt with serious backlashes and got through the storm and learnt,” Swankie said.
Some of the reaction on Mortein’s Facebook page.