Only on the Internet.
As you probably know by now, on December 20, a PR executive named Justine Sacco became an unlikely news sensation when she tweeted a tasteless remark about AIDs, Africa, and race as she boarded a plane in London for a lengthy British Airways flight to Cape Town, South Africa. When she arrived in Cape Town Saturday morning local time, she discovered that the social media world had exploded with outrage over her single tweet while waiting for her flight to land. News media ranging from Mashable and The New York Times to The Huffington Post had covered the firestorm. She also brought out the good and bad in brands and everyday people.
Her inexcusable remark was not the first tasteless tweet she had written, raising the obvious question of how someone in a high-profile PR job could exercise such poor judgment and how her employer, conglomerate IAC, could have overlooked her history of embarrassing Twitter behavior. But she wasn’t the only one behaving badly: in-flight WiFi provider Gogo attempted to turn the news into a real-time marketing opportunity by issuing the following tweet:
Jason Del Ray of AllThingsD correctly lambasted Gogo for taking real-time marketing to an all-time low. Note to companies: it’s just not a good idea to turn negative news into brand-building opportunities. Common sense, right? Apparently not for Gogo or for a host of other brands who also committed similar missteps in 2013. (Gogo subsequently apologized.)