There’s a thin line between edgy and uncomfortable. When a business crosses that line, the result can be a PR disaster. Today saw two such disasters, as both a restaurant and a multinational vodka brand landed in hot water over some poor choices in words.
First up was Georgia restaurant Chops & Hops, who chose a black-and-bleu burger as their special of the day this past Friday. No big deal, right? It probably would have sold a few orders and faded into a particularly tasty and delicious memory (who doesn’t love a black-and-bleu burger?), if not for the copy they included with the picture on their Facebook page:
Well, that’s one way to sell a sandwich. Some patrons expressed support of the joke, but many more cried “too soon.” The special picked up national media attention before pulling the burger from its menu (though the photo and original caption are still up – whether it’s to keep the discussion going or fuel publicity is in the eye of the beholder) and issuing a statement on its Facebook page from restaurant co-owner Mychell Lang:
The owners of C&H would like to make sure everyone knows that we and our staff DO NOT SUPPORT DOMESTIC VIOLENCE. Many of us have been affected by domestic violence in some manner and realize that this is no joke.
We have been involved in fundraising for Project Safe Team 6 and we fully intend on donating proceeds (times 6 - in honor of Team 6) from the sales of the burger. C&H continues to strive for a community driven, family oriented, great food and great service environment. We will continue to be involved in our community fundraising and charities near and dear to our hearts.
Meanwhile back at
the ranch Belvedere Vodka’s Facebook page, even stranger things were afoot on Friday when the brand posted the following visual:
It’s ambiguous enough – it could be saying that a weird guy is rarely smooth with the ladies, or that sometimes a gal needs the Heimlich maneuver. There's also the fact that, as one eagle-eyed Jezebel commenter pointed out, the photo was lifted from a a comedy video about baby pictures (which is a different problematic and copyright-involving issue altogether, and even the video itself takes a super-awkward turn at the end). But the combination of the suggestive copy and the out-of-context still, with its horrified-looking woman appearing to escape the grasp of a leering man, were enough to spark concern that Belvedere was being glib about sexual assault. Viewers expressed anger, and some organizations even called for a boycott.
The Belvedere crew has been quick to act. Within hours, the image was pulled and an apology was issued. Later, both the SVP of Global Marketing and the President of Belvedere Vodka issued statements of apology – the latter, Charles Gibb, also announced that the company had donated to anti-sexual violence organization RAINN.
Both companies will assuredly bounce back from the weekend’s PR blunders. But everyone can learn a lesson or two. Above all: think before you make that Facebook post.