Classy or rude? Marks walk a fine line to mark Queen’s death | The Queen
Content is king, in #marketing at least, but many brands have found that the queen isn’t happy.
Amid the uproar over the news of the Queen’s death, social media managers have struggled to figure out the best way to communicate with their customers.
Was this the occasion to draw up a dark and respectful balance sheet of his reign? Or was it just an opportunity?
Dale Vince, the founder of power company Ecotricity and chairman of Forest Green Rovers, tweeted a photo of the Queen mocking up wearing a green hat and green club shirt, with the words “Thank you Liz”.
The post prompted hundreds of complaints in response, to which he replied that he had met the Queen while collecting her OBE. “She was wearing a green dress and we talked about green energy and stuff,” he said. “It was a fun experience, and she had a good sense of humor – unlike some here.”
For commercial organizations, there is a fine line to walk between rude and classy. Not saying anything may seem disrespectful, but as customers have become more sophisticated consumers of media, even well-meaning messages can look like self-promotion.
Print newspapers on Friday were almost entirely ad-free after advertisers pulled out on news of the Queen’s death, and there are few signs that many are keen to return soon.
The public reaction provides a clue. Legoland Windsor announced it would close last Friday with a tweet of a photo of a Lego model that looked like the Queen, while Playmobil shared a black and white Instagram image of one of its minifigures wearing a hat and holding a handbag with the words “Rest in Peace Queen Elizabeth II 1926-2022”.
Both messages received a lot of attention. Playmobil’s image was of a figure she started creating several years ago, named ‘Queen of England’, but her message was widely shared on social media as people gathered lists tributes deemed to be collected.
Crossfit UK has reposted a workout of the day called ‘Queen Elizabeth II’, originally created in June for the platinum jubilee, saying it was ‘only fitting that this workout is now turned into a tribute WOD to celebrate her life’ .
“This is very, very strange behavior,” one poster said in response. “Unbalanced stuff,” said another.
A post on Ann Summers’ homepage with a photo of the Queen and the words “Thank You Your Majesty” has been shared, with links and images to sex toys and other products below.
For other brands, their banality or obscurity was enough to raise eyebrows.
Mark Borkowski, public relations consultant and author, described the Playmobil post as “a dumb thing to do”.
“People shouldn’t judge the mood of the nation from social media. The metrics come out — what’s happening on Twitter, on Instagram, the latest TikToks — but the people feeling the greatest loss right now aren’t in there. So when they see all these people dancing with clever ideas, it shows how alienated they are from the public.
Brands should wait to see what the public’s reaction to the Queen’s death is before responding, Borkowski said. “It’s going to challenge people and show where the real geniuses exist,” he said. “The Royal Family came out with pristine prose after the Meghan Markle show – ‘some memories may vary’. Brevity is a lost art.
A few companies, “disruptive startups,” might find they can fuel the scandal machine, Borkowski added. “But if you’re a brand with a larger audience, you have to be a lot more respectful.”
“I think that will resonate for a while because there’s no real good news on the horizon,” he added. “As we delve deeper into the strikes and blackouts etc., it will be a time that no one of any generation has experienced. It will put Charles front and center.