Brands ‘Honor’ MLK On Social Media with Misguided Self-Promotion

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Another monumental day, another brand fail. 

Monday’s marking of Martin Luther King Jr. Day presented an opportunity for global citizens to reflect on the life-changing actions of the civil rights hero, from reciting King’s iconic “Dream” speech to paying respect to the thousands that fell—and continue to fall—to the heavy hand of inequality. 

Highlighting the need for corporate-social responsibility, four brands—Chicken of the Sea, Chobani, Kmart and Cisco—tweeted the same King quote: “Life’s most persistent and urgent questions is, what are you doing for others?”

But that may have been one of the only bright spots in a day filled with brand missteps. Much like the many innappropriate brand posts on the anniversary of Sept. 11, a few brands took the creative liberty of twisting the day’s significance into a poorly-timed brand boost. Check out some of the brand posts below:[more]

Chobani, along with a few others, did right by the civil rights leader by sharing an appropriate quote:

Leading the long list of questionable brand messages is sleep aid ZzzQuil and animal rights group PETA, whose tweet drew accusations of rascism. 

Following a foul consumer reaction to its first tweet (above), PETA seemed to try and clarify its intent with a handful of follow-up tweets defending its connection between King’s fight for civil (human) rights and the fight against animal abuse. 

Some brands used the day to push their own initiatives: 

Some, like the US Marine Corps Forces Special Operations, have already gotten around to apologizing for their poorly executed tweets:

Others were able to squeeze in a little shameless self-promotion:

Research has not yet revealed why celebrations on social media offer “the best of tributes and the worst of tributes,” as the field is still too new. But one thing that is known, as Philadelphia magazine points out, “King’s work has consistently been manipulated to serve the purposes of others.”

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