Posted February 8, 2013 6:16 pm by with 3 comments

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nemoThe East Coast is bracing for another big storm (while it’s pouring rain and sunny here in Southern California) and that means a solid 24 to 48 hours of all eyes on the internet. Thanks to live streaming video, instantly updated news reports and social media, everyone in the world can stay on top of what’s happening — which is a good thing and a bad thing.

History has shown us that the rush to report often results in mistakes which are compounded when they go viral. Hurricane photos from a previous storm, fake reports of heroism, photos that have been manipulated for fun or profit and just flat out lying for heaven knows what reason — it happens every time a big news story hits.

It’s even become common place for reputable news outlets to air social media updates and reports from callers without verifying the validity of their statements. This isn’t journalism, this is a rush for ratings.

Then we have the marketers who take advantage of the situation. Several brands got their hands slapped when they used Hurricane Irene to promote their products but will that stop marketers from doing it again this time around? Nope.

Part of the problem stems from the Weather Channel’s new idea to name storms. In this case, they went with Nemo, referencing Captain Nemo of 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and the Latin translation of “no man,” not the movie Finding Nemo. But we are who we are, and more people are familiar with the happy fish than the angry sub captain, so that’s the way this is going.

Labeling the storm makes it easier to post to social media, especially when the name is short. #nemo and you’re part of the conversation. Now marketers have to answer the big question, is this a good time to post to a trend or a bad time? Right now, New York City’s fashion week is braving the storm, so I’m okay with designers posting their thoughts, but this is pushing it.

Really? I’m stranded in a snow storm and Kmart things their Fashion Concierge can help? And Urban Outfitters is back with a less offensive  Tweet this time.

It’s all fun and games until this happens:

I’m not saying it’s always bad form to comment on a storm under your brand name but 24 hours from now, when major cities are paralyzed and folks are without heat, electricity, food and water – you might want to think twice about posting that funny Nemo Tweet. You might draw a lot of attention to your brand, but it might be for all the wrong reasons.

Stay off the road East Coasters and stay safe.


  • in Florida, its both a blessing and curse. during hurricanes, social media is an opportunity to find out what is open, and available. But with that, prices are normally higher, or threat of damage while going out, is still possible.

  • I never thought about this. It is smart how some brands decide to use these events as opportunities, but with the hardships around the events it’s a very fine line to toe in order to be effective and not offensive.

  • I never thought about how effective it could be to use these events as opportunities. It can be tough to toe the line however, when there are so many hardships and suffering surrounding them.