This morning, someone from the Bing PR team, in an effort to join in the efforts to help the victims of the recent Japan earthquake and tsunami, learned what happens when your PR efforts for a multi-billion dollar enterprise are amateurish and inexcusably poorly thought out.
A tweet from the @Bing Twitter account promised to donate a dollar for every retweet, up to $100,000. Enlisting the help of Bing promoters and celebrities Ryan Seacrest and Alyssa Milano, the tweet was retweeted lots of times. It was also, however, seen as a crass attempt to cash in on the misfortunes of others, was quickly denounced by both tweets and blog posts, and launched a counter campaign on Twitter using an unprintable hashtag. While the hashtag didn’t make it to “Trending Topics”, it was used well over 100 times, meaning it was probably seen by thousands of Twitter users.
We noticed the commotion this morning, checked a number of times for a Bing response (it eventually took almost 7 hours after the first tweet for @Bing to issue an apology), and posted. We also reached out to members of the Bing team to ask that they respond to the criticism, and we’re sure numerous others did as well.
So why did the Bing tweet fail, when other efforts, notably Google’s People Finder, not get as much negative attention? Let’s look at 4 main reasons:
- The #hashtaggers were outraged that Bing couldn’t make a donation without asking for something (exposure for their twitter account and their brand) in return, and they were right.
- Bing has established itself as an aggressive marketer, willing to go to almost any lengths to promote the Bing brand. The Bing Bar, “Club Bing”, aggressive marketing deals, the list goes on and on. Bing is no stranger to pushing its brand, and there wasn’t much reason to assume any different this time.
- Kenneth Cole just made the same mistake, got lambasted for it, and had to backtrack. That was only a few weeks ago, and was well covered. There just isn’t any excuse not to know that glomming your brand name on to a tragedy doesn’t fly.
- The response time was inexcusably slow, as is the norm with just about anything coming out of Redmond. Time and time again Microsoft proves that they “just don’t get it” when it comes to dealing in our instant-on / always-on world. Make a mistake, ok. Don’t pay any attention to the backlash? Inexcusable.
We were embarrassed today by the Bing PR team’s unprofessionalism, intentional or not, in the face of an unfathomable tragedy. We’re not sure if they need to be cleaning out their desks, or if they even realize why the tweet was so wrong, but somebody at Bing needs to get a clue.