Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Brands Face Risk of Backlash by Tweeting about Gord Downie

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Brands Face Risk of Backlash by Tweeting about Gord Downie

Article excerpt

Brands face risk by tweeting about Gord Downie


TORONTO - Fans of rock star, poet and Canadian troubadour Gord Downie began flooding social media with heartfelt tributes as soon as word emerged that the singer had died.

And among their tweets were some that appeared less than heartfelt -- messages from corporate brands including Hudson's Bay and Chevrolet Canada.

One tweet from @hudsonsbay spurred debate for its seeming lack of tact, and was reportedly removed within 30 minutes.

But that was long enough to be captured by the Toronto-based lunchtime tabloid Twelve Thirty Six, which reposted the image that seemed to some like a thinly veiled attempt to hawk denim jackets.

"Here's to the King of the Canadian Tuxedo. #RIPGordDownie," the department store tweeted, along with an image of three denim jackets with brand labels prominently displayed, including one with a lining that featured HBC's distinctive multi-coloured stripes.

Marketing professor Ela Veresiu found it in "poor taste."

"It was well-meaning but from my own research (when) it's from an industry that's far removed from the particular sad story or social situation, then it's never a good time or a good idea to comment," said Veresiu, from York University's Schulich School of Business.

A spokesman for HBC did not immediately return a request for comment.

Chevrolet Canada also waded into the conversation on Twitter with a black-and-white image of what appeared to be a highway lined with majestic pines and the words: "Over 53 years, a kid from Kingston spent his life on the road, inspiring Canadians with his music from coast to coast. Today we say goodbye to an icon. R.I.P."

Chevy Canada spokesman Mathew Palmer said the tweet was a genuine expression of shared grief.

The tweet did not mention Downie by name or show a car, and Palmer said that was intentional.

"We're an iconic company of fans ourselves and this was something that was important to us and we felt like we should say something to acknowledge it," said Palmer, director of communications for parent company General Motors Canada. …

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