Like the rest of you, this crisis
has me glued to my phone.
Not only are we taking in
every news alert and every new
health recommendation, we’re
working remotely and attempting to keep
business running. It’s an insane amount
of highly intense information to process.
Which is why poorly timed ads are
much more likely to piss me off.
It’s time for every brand to cancel their
Here’s an example. A Ladder Insurance
ad popped up in my Instagram feed a
couple days ago. It’s a picture of a father
and son in an airport security line. The
message is you don’t have to put your
life on hold to buy Ladder Insurance.
In an ordinary time, this ad’s worst sin is
that it’s boring. In an extraordinary time
—say, when airport lines are clogged with
people returning from overseas, and the
very idea of standing in a crowd makes
you shudder—this ad is almost offensive.
Funny a week ago does not equal
That’s just one example, and it’s so easy
to fix. Just cancel your automation,
right? But there are other companies
committing worse brand sins.
Lucky Brand, a clothing store based out
of L.A., e-blasted me with this headline:
“Trip cancelled? Stay-cay > Vacay”.
The email has a photo of a bed with
the word “getaway” crossed out and
replaced with “staycation.”
Setting aside how horrible the word
“staycation” is all by itself, the tonedeafness
of this ad is almost unreal. Our
current global crisis and the isolation
of people all over America and the
world isn’t a “staycation”—it’s an uneasy
new reality that we’re all navigating
together. Overtly salesy or pushy
messages like this represent the easiest
way for a brand to do themselves in.
Instead, every brand needs to take a
page from my friend Carrie Trabue of
Carrington Legal’s playbook. She runs a
legal recruiting firm and recruits head
counsel for all kinds of organizations.
She sent a thoughtful email to
her list about how to effectively
conduct screening interviews via
videoconferencing. That’s helpful
—a lot of companies are adjusting
to a new long-distance reality.
Do you need help crafting an authentic
message that isn’t tone deaf during a
crisis? Let’s chat! +
Deb Gabor is the founder of Sol
Marketing, a consultancy that has
led successful strategy engagements
since 2003 for global brands like
Dell, Microsoft, and NBCUniversal,
and for numerous digital brands,
including Allrecipes, Cheezburger,
HomeAway, and many more.
A leading expert on brand disasters,
she is the author of Branding Is Sex:
Get Your Customers Laid and Sell the
Hell out of Anything, and Irrational
Loyalty: Building A Brand That
Thrives In Turbulent Times. Deb
has been featured in USA Today and
other major publications. A displaced
Midwesterner, Deb currently lives in
Austin, Texas, but travels frequently
to help her clients build bulletproof