So far, 2020 has taken the phrase “funny old year” to a new level. It started with bushfires engulfing Australia, then Britain and much of Europe was battered by Storms Ciara and Dennis in February, and the USA now finds itself in the grip of racial protests and disharmony that show no signs of going away. While all this has been going on, there’s been the small matter of the global COVID-19 pandemic to contend with too.
All things considered, it’s easy to think that the world is in need of something to laugh at right now, but humour in these difficult times has to be approached with caution. This was something the social media team for Bristol Dry Gin failed to do in an unbelievably crass tweet on Monday that made light of the American protests. It read:
“When the shooting starts the looting starts. Voted No 1 gin by rioters for its complex botanical mix and high flammability. #gin #bristol #PartyParrot #burningbridges”
This is a reversal of the phrase “when the looting starts, the shooting starts”, used by US President Donald Tweet in a recent tweet that was hidden by Twitter. The brewer claimed the tweet was an attempt to poke fun at Trump, but many Twitter users accused the company of trying to piggyback on serious themes like police brutality, racism and violent protests to promote its products.
The tweet was eventually deleted, with the firm tweeting an apology:
However, even the apology has irked some viewers, with replies accusing Bristol Dry Gin of continuing to promote the product while apologising, and only being “sorry it backfired”.
The tweet certainly achieved its aim of getting plenty of engagement and drumming up publicity for the small gin brewery, but it was almost entirely of the negative variety, and at least two companies have said they will no longer be stocking the gin.
Bristol Dry Gin, to give it some credit, says it has made a donation to Black Lives Matter and has been in touch with Bristol-based group Stand Against Racism and Inequality (SARI).
At Engage Web, we’re all for careful and even cheeky humour on social media, but it has to be judged well and in line with the company’s branding and tone. Bristol Dry Gin made the mistake of diving straight into a delicate situation that had nothing to do with the product, and making a clumsy “joke” where it wasn’t clear who the butt of it was.