It is largely impossible these days to comment on the death of a celebrity without offending someone. If you try hard enough, anything can be taken out of context. But when it comes to combing a supposed tribute with a clear marketing push, you’re bound to suffer a pretty heated backlash.
And so it proved – Cheerios having well and truly shot itself in the foot with this one.
Based in Prince’s home state – Minnesota – the folks at the cereal company decided that a fitting tribute to the star would be the following Twitter post. If you look carefully, you’ll see the ‘i’ is actually dotted with a Cheerio.
Appropriate? Offensive? Well, it seems social media in general sided with the latter – people went borderline ballistic. But while some were wagging the finger of OTT commercialism in the face of the breakfast brand, others were insisting it was a clear case of looking for reasons to get p****d just for the sake of it.
And then there were the more sensible types who thought the whole thing to be pointless. A waste of time. Of no consequence or merit at all.
Still, the social media backlash was strong enough to prompt General Mills – the company that owns Cheerios – to immediately pull the post. It wasn’t strong enough to have them issue an apology…at least, not until asked outright by Ad Age.
“As a Minnesota brand, Cheerios wanted to acknowledge the loss of a musical legend in our hometown,” said a representative from the company.
“But we quickly decided that we didn’t want the tweet to be misinterpreted, and removed it out of respect for Prince and those mourning.”
Still, the argument rages on and completely turns attention away from actually paying respects to and mourning a true music icon. And of course, it’s not as if they were or will be the only brand to slip a little self-promotion into their tributes to Prince, either.
“He embodied so much of what we prize most: fearlessness, love and a refusal to stand still,” Tweeted Lenovo, which is really about as shamelessly self-promotional as it gets!
Any backlash on that one?