A Lesson AT&T Will “Never Forget”

By Matter

We have all heard it time and time again: From the moment you send a tweet or post to Facebook, your words are forever on display for the entire world to see – even if you press delete.

Talk about pressure! Social media marketers and public relations professionals are well aware of the embarrassment the simplest typo could cause a brand. You don’t have to remind us that larger blunders have the potential to destroy reputations and lose business. Yet, mistakes happen every day.

The latest winner of the epic social media fail award goes to… AT&T!

While the rest of the country honored September 11 with somber ceremonies and emotional tributes on its 12th anniversary earlier this month, the telecom giant took to their social media channels with a Photoshopped version of the annual Tribute in Light display, as seen through the camera of one of their smartphones, with the caption “Never Forget”.

The image has since been taken down – but not before it accrued more than 300 retweets, 400 shares on Facebook and countless jeers shaming the company.

AT&T took note of the loud criticism and quickly issued an apology, stating that “the image was solely meant to pay respect to those affected by the 9/11 tragedy.”

But this adver-memorial still infuriated the social media masses, who accused AT&T of a “tasteless,” “tacky” and “disgusting” marketing gimmick. Some referred to the incident as product placement and others even claimed that they would never shop with AT&T again.

Regardless of their true intentions, AT&T was instantaneously caught in the middle of a 140-character controversy, while plenty of other brands – from American Express to Waffle House – managed to commemorate 9/11 without the backlash.

The difference? AT&T’s branded tweet focused too much on their product instead of the remembrance, which came off as insensitive, offensive and self-serving. And we all know that the way our message is perceived is just as important as the message itself.

Do you think AT&T crossed the line with this image? Let me know your thoughts in the comments.