DHL fall foul of the thin line of social media acceptance
6 October 2014 by Marketing Team
As much as you may dislike it, social media is a very effective method of advertising. For the most part it is free and offers us the potential to reach thousands of people from across the world. Sometimes it has the capacity to delight with marketing teams turning bad events into great exposure, like Greggs recent example with Google. But sometimes things go very wrong as with the case with DHL and their Facebook post asking for support for Jules Bianchi?
For those of you who do not know, a horrible accident transpired during the Japanese Grand Prix on 6th October. Typhoon Phanfone started to hit Japan at the weekend with storms predicted to hit Japan at around 3pm Sunday, coincidentally the start time of the Grand Prix. The typhoon had generated winds of up to 150mph and towering waves 14 metres in height. To put that in perspective, 150 mph is faster than the average speed in which a Formual1 car completes a single lap of the Suzuka track.
With the rain causing treacherous conditions and the safety car having already been out twice, towards the end of the race, Adrian Sutil aquaplaned of the track at the Dunlop Curve and collided with safety barrier, but was soon seen to be walking away from the vehicle and seemingly unharmed. Within moments a recovery vehicle was on hand to remove the vehicle from the track perimeters. However, alongside the safety car, a medical car was also deployed. Unfortunately, on the very next lap, Jules Bianchi aquaplaned at the very same corner and collided with the recovery vehicle attending to Sutil’s car. After the race Adrian Sutil told reporters “I was just standing there, we know that is it serious at the moment”. So serious in fact that Bianchi was unconscious in the vehicle but breathing for himself. Sadly things took a turn for the worse and Bianchi is now in a “critical” condition after receiving brain surgery at the Mie General Hospital.
DHL, the German Logistics company, posted an update along with photos of Bianchi on its Facebook page, Formula 1 Backstage by DHL, asking for a ‘Like’ in support of his recovery.
However, there has been a substantial negative reaction to this post as some users believe DHL are using this as an opportunity to promote themselves. The post has since been retracted by DHL and followed by an apology in which DHL state they “were not asking people to like our page, only the photo.”
Unfortunately, social media has a great capacity to be misunderstood and this is a prime example. We cannot always portray our emotions and intentions via short text, whether it is SMS or a social update. Perhaps in the case of DHL we have been too hasty with our opinions, after all the Facebook page is titled “Formula 1 Backstage by DHL” so surely discussing Formula 1 matters is the primary purpose of the page? We must remember DHL is the official logistics partner of F1, so there really is not much need to use this kind of event for advertisement the brand. Or perhaps it was a desperate and “ghastly” use of social media exploitation for a brand.
Whatever the intention, this instance shoes in no uncertain terms, the need for all brands to be extremely careful with their social content and to consider their published comments from all angles before pressing the send button. After that button is pressed, there’s no going back.