There are few things that are such obviously good news like a team of Navy SEALs successfully killing Osama Bin Laden. While it might not mean much operationally (the U.S. has successfully reduced the influence of Al Qaeda since September 11th), it is a great moral victory for the ten-year effort to root out terrorism around the world.
Leading up to the announcement and throughout the day, from the Phillies-Mets game last night to the front steps of the White House in the early morning, crowds are shouting “USA! USA!”. The spontaneous reaction to the news was overwhelmingly patriotic and a cathartic reaction to a ten-year battle.
Given this context, I was surprised to find the following email in my mailbox this morning:
Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate companies that are nimble enough to respond to current events. However, I feel like Qdoba stepped over the line here. We’re witnessing our nation celebrating a moral victory. It seems crass to exploit it to sell a few burritos.
For the record, I don’t envy companies that are competing for attention in the age of social media. There are landmines everywhere, as Kenneth Cole learned when his company was lambasted for attempting to take advantage of the events in Egypt to promote a new clothing line earlier this year. Even more challenging, companies need to be edgy just to get attention. It’s tough out there.
Being difficult, however, isn’t an excuse for getting it wrong. While I might join in the chorus of “USA!” that’s happening across the country, I won’t be doing it to get a buck off at a burrito joint. There’s a difference between being edgy and being opportunistic, and Qdoba landed with a thud on the wrong side of that line.