Sep 7 11

Question of the week: How should brands handle commemorating 9/11?

by Rafael Sangiovanni

A decade later, the attacks of September 11, 2001 remain a very sensitive and top-of-mind topic. We will be seeing countless tributes over the coming days on TV, in the newspaper and all over the Internet. An event of this magnitude touched all our lives, and for that reason many governments, companies and organizations of every kind are looking to pay homage to the victims and to remember the moment that changed America forever. This myriad of tributes led us to this week’s question: How exactly should brands and companies handle commemorating 9/11?

Think about how much communication has changed of the past 10 years. Back in 2001, there was no Facebook, Twitter or even MySpace page for brands to broadcast messages to their customers. Now, there are several things to consider: Is it appropriate for a brand to comment on the anniversary 9/11, or does it seem exploitative? Does it simply depend on the type of brand? If a company doesn’t post something about 9/11, are they perceived as uncaring? Is silence maybe the best way to show respect for the victims? What about internal/employee communications and support?

This has certainly been a topic of conversation at Digital Park and rbb, since we are actively counseling our clients on the best way to mark the anniversary of this tragedy. We’d love to hear what you think. Please let us know in the comments section below.

Posted in: Management Practices

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  1. I’d say the same approach to any national holiday based on remembrance ( i.e : Memorial Day , MLK Day ) – A humble homage or acknowledgement while suspending all the inane marketing messages out of respect would be enough. What you don’t want to do is commercialize or plug things in relation to it. ex: ” I remembrance 9/11 and the twin towers, come into *insert store or bar here* for buy one get one free “.. no subtle pun intended.

  2. Most brands should simply acknowledge in remembrance the events of 9/11 rather than trying to create an underlying marketing element tying their brand to the events of that day. Something that emotionally sensitive could be perceived as opportunist rather than patriotic. Unless you portray your brand as uniquely “American”, you’re better off with a simple, respectful acknowledgement of the day. Your customers wouldn’t expect anything more.

  3. Brands that wanted to participate commemorating 9/11 should have already had their approach in place. By now, it’s probably too late.

    But if they do, very carefully of course. It also depends greatly on their relationship with that day that forever changed us. A minor misstep could backfire and do more harm than good, however well intentioned.

    Stay large, don’t promote but as you say commemorate. If a brand chooses to stay on the sidelines, that would not be viewed as uncaring. But I’m sure some type of appropriate acknowledgement would be easy to do.

    IMO, this question should have been asked and thought through a long time ago.


  4. Brands should do nothing. People should remember 9/11 in prayers, solemn thoughts, moments of silence, houses of worship and 9/11 ceremonies.
    I feel like putting any kind of commemoration of that day on any medium through which you are hoping to transact business comes off as superficial and insincere.

    Just my two cents.


  5. Phil, I understand and agree with your sentiment but brands are a part of who we are as Americans. Please see one example of how a brand can properly and appropriately pay their respects to this important day in our history.

    But I respect what you said. A day like this is no time to disagree with people’s feelings. What you feel is right. Here is a blog post I wrote on 9/11 last year if you have the time.


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