Saving Lives, Preventing Injuries, & Sales Pitches!
From security and technology firms to a bridal gown designer, businesses are using the Boston Marathon bombings as a hook to promote their products.
And some of their pitches raise questions about attempts to profit on the back of a tragedy, often with tenuous connections.
“There’s always going to be riffraff,” said Kevin Lane Keller, marketing professor at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College. “Then it just becomes a question of timing. The danger is if you try to do it too soon — and I think it’s still too soon.”
Companies risk appearing exploitative even if they’re pushing legitimate products that could help in future similar events, Keller said.
But Jordan Frankel, vice president at Atlanta’s Global Security Experts, has zero qualms about his company’s push this week for BlastGARD, a clear protective film that helps hold together glass fragments during an explosion.
“After 9/11, that was a very big quandary for myself and our company,” Frankel said. “At this point in time, there’s no guilt about pursuing business that can possibly save lives or prevent injuries.”
The bombings prompted British Columbia’s Stunt Buxx, which connects people with brands to create viral media, to accelerate the launch of its social-cause crowdfunding arm. But while its press release headline promoted a campaign for The One Fund Boston, one had to wade through verbiage about pitchman Mitch Berger’s NFL and Super Bowl championship days — and how he met his swimsuit model fiancee on Bravo’s “Millionaire Matchmaker” TV show — before seeing another mention of Boston.
“In Canada, he’s a pretty big deal, so we wanted to talk about him … and also tie it into the Boston tragedy and what we’re doing,” CEO Ryan Bennett said, noting the company makes no money from its charitable platform.
Fort Myers, Fla.-based bridal gown designer Christina Wu used the marathon bombings as an entree to draw attention to its past charitable work.
“If you do good things and you support charities and causes, and particularly disasters, you should get some credit for that,” said Nancy Sterling, senior vice president of strategic communications at Boston’s ML Strategies. “But it depends on what you do, how you do it and how you promote that. It’s a very difficult and fine line.”