Today is Martin Luther King Day, and brands have not hesitated to leverage the opportunity to use their social media presences to “honor” Mr. King. Honestly, most of them should have kept their mouths shut.
I’ve seen countless examples of brands running MLK specials to boost sales today. Scott Stratten from UnMarketing shared this gem earlier today featuring a business that offered 25% off everything black in the store. Please take a moment to really let that one sink in.
What really irks me, however, are the more subtle examples of brands using this holiday to benefit themselves, and for me, it all comes down to the company logo.
If you’re a brand, and you want to honor MLK on social media, a simple quote accompanied by an image of Mr. King will usually do the trick. But when a company associates their brand with MLK by adding their logo to the photo, the entire message of the post changes from, “Stop thinking about us for a moment and take some time to honor this great man,” to, “Hey everyone, look how much WE love Martin Luther King! Aren’t we awesome?!”
In other words, associating your brand with MLK in any way takes the focus away from the intended meaning of the post in an attempt to turn it back towards the brand, and I find that incredibly insensitive and in poor taste.
Bottom line: If you want to honor MLK today (or any notable public figure in the future) on social media, either A) do not make any attempts to associate your brand with who you’re trying to honor, or B) keep your mouth shut and say nothing at all. And by the way, if you do choose option B, no one will call you out for being a bigot or a racist. If you don’t believe me, look at the Facebook pages of your favorite brands and I’ll bet you that the large majority of them chose not to “honor” Mr. King today.