It was a day that will forever live in infamy. One of the worst attacks on the American soil took place 72 years ago today, which, of course, the minds at SpaghettiOs decided was a perfect marketing opportunity.
Late Friday night, the official SpaghettiOs Twitter account touched off an imbrogli-O with this post of its anthropomorphic noodle mascot smiling like an idiot and clutching the American flag as if at Iwo Jima:
The tweet lasted more than 10 hours before it was unceremoniously deleted, but those who have seen it remain perplexed. There has been no comment so far from parent company, Campbell's, although a former director of digital marketing and social media for the company tweeted that the post was a "mistake."
I find it fascinating and sad how the social media community turns on their own, when a brand makes a mistake. Don't throw stones...— Adam Kmiec (@adamkmiec) December 7, 2013
Of course, this is the worst kind of opportunistic "real-time" branding that has become all too familiar in our new media age. For every perfectly timed, spur-of-the-moment tweet during a Super Bowl power outage, there are dozens more that feel prepackaged and tired. And then for everyone of those, sterilized by teams of experts and crowd-tested to the hilt, there's one that's in incomprehensibly bad taste, like the tweets by Gap and Urban Outfitters, among others, that encouraged shopping as a balm for Hurricane Sandy.
It brings to mind that old adage that any publicity is good publicity, but it becomes difficult to justify if the brand is derided on social media and comes off as completely tone-deaf and insensitive. (It was also technically posted on December 6.)
Of course, this is also when Twitter's response machine shines.
"You want a date which will live in infamy? I'll give you a date which will live in infamy." --@SpaghettiOs social media team— Daniel Radosh (@danielradosh) December 7, 2013
So yes, there are easy jokes to be made here. But it's also as good an opportunity as any to remember, even without this Spaghetti-Uh-O, what Pearl Harbor means to the United States. Even though our national memory is short and it happened 72 years ago, Pearl Harbor was for a very long time the single largest loss of life from a foreign attack on American soil. That still means something, even if there are fewer and fewer people around who can remember that terrible day.
So if you do what SpaghettiOs asks and actually remember what happened at Pearl Harbor, you might remind yourself exactly why it's wrong. Know that the weirdly terrifying O would not have been smiling had it known that 2,403 Americans were killed that day. Pore through Life magazine's fairly incredible collection of photos from the assault and see that any American flags struck by the attack would have been in tatters. Know, too, that the people who lived through that tragic day are getting older, and we owe it to them to remember. Know it, and remember it, because tragedy is wasted if it isn't.