It should go without saying that advertisers should avoid using a hurricane storm as a springboard for brand promotion. Obviously, no one told the people at Gap or American Apparel this nugget of information. Gap and American Apparel have released emails and tweets promoting new discounts. New Hurricane Sandy-based discounts, that is. American Apparel sent out an email blast late Monday, letting customers know that “If they’re bored,” AA has a 20% “SANDYSALE” discount for customers on the East Coast. Which is great, because when you’re trapped in a storm that’s flooding your city it’s a great time to order those leg warmers you’ve had your eye on. Following behind them is Gap, which sent out a seemingly innocent tweet by suggesting people should stay indoors and possibly do some shopping at Gap.com.
Look: no one is saying that people aren’t going to be shopping during this storm. There’s quite a few people who are relatively safe and probably will be surfing eBay and Amazon until they can go back to work or school. However, it’s not a great idea to actively encourage people to shop at your store or give them discounts to do so. What seems funny or innocuous comes off as unnecessary or ridiculous. Why name your sale “Sandy Sale?” Why not promote a discount in a way that’s not taking advantage of a natural disaster? It’s an obvious “shilling” tactic; it makes your motives too obvious and leaves you completely open to social media backlash with little recourse but to apologize. It’s best to shy away from using Hurricane Sandy as a platform right now- especially if you consider the estimates that Hurricane Sandy is going to cost the advertising industry about $500 million in lost revenue.
It’s probably best to just hold off until the storm clears.