Marketers, can we stand down from swine-flu fear-mongering?

When I write and present on social media, one of my main themes is the potential for marketers to rebuild long-lost trust with consumers in new media that encourage dialogue and sharing. My message is, in essence, “This is working. Let’s not blow it.”

But as JFK is reported to have said about a bomber pilot who violated the stand-down order after the Cuban Missile Crisis and nearly started World War III, “There’s always some a**hole who doesn’t get the word.”

Today’s stray bomber pilot: WebEx. A colleague of mine received an email from a WebEx sales rep entitled, “With the Flu Pandemic, now may be the time.” The email’s sales angle was, you guessed it, that there’s never been a better time to avoid face-to-face meetings. It even contained the gem, “For the first time in recent history we face the possibility of having travel eliminated for safety.” Yes. Other than that long-forgotten 9/11 thing, I suppose…

Can we all collectively agree not to stoke swine flu fears in our marketing? Would that be such a big miss? At this stage, the economy stands to take a much harder hit from panicked responses to the flu than from any direct loss of productivity. WebEx’s ghoulish tactic both exaggerates the present risk and denigrates the dead.

Marketers who defect from the greater good of public restraint drag us all down with them. We can do better.


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