When Doves tweets

When Doves tweets

Managing brands’ social media accounts could be one of the toughest communication jobs out there. Within the tight confines of character limits, and the possibility that someone is going to get upset about something that wasn’t said or intended, the brand attempts to speak with ‘voice’, to build relationships and generally contribute to marketing and sales goals. Social media isn’t just one-to-many, it’s also an opportunity to listen to what customers are saying about your brand. Sometimes the many-to-one gets uncomfortable, as you’ll see in a bit.

Few brands would take the risk of entering the space with the sass of James Blunt; and building the personality of Wendy’s on Twitter requires having a professional like Amy Brown at the controls (although she has is no longer there).

At the very least, successful brand social media has a personality, preferably with a dose of humanness.

But what happens when you’re an undertaker (ok, funeral director)?

One could understand the need to play it safe around grief and bereavement. And, even if one isn’t in the middle of dealing with a loss, people are generally awkward about death. Funerals aren’t things one buys regularly (preferably hardly ever), and they probably fall into the category of grudge purchase. So, it’s not like your regular FMCG. I get that it’s complicated.

I hadn’t given any of this any thought until Doves Funerals tweeted what amounted to a get well soon message for Sbahle Mpisane after a serious motor accident. They deleted the tweet, and apologised, but it just seemed opportunistic and insensitive, considering that her condition was so serious that recovery couldn’t be taken for granted.

After another round of getting flamed this week, the Doves Funerals account appears to have been renamed. My tweet to them was answered by the Doves Insurance account, in the form of a standard message that was repeated to 30 other people. All very robotic, and not that human.

Whilst their posts are dripping in schmaltz, they don’t convey authenticity. All the images linked to their posts appear to be stock photos – maybe it’s just me, but nothing shouts “Fake!” quite like stock photos.

Is there space for Doves Funerals on social media, and what should the messaging be?

I think they’d get away with posting public service announcements related to drinking and driving or wearing seatbelts. These could make a powerful statement.

The campaign that drew the flames is captioned “Make those memories today”, which is not necessarily a bad idea. The problem is that the execution doesn’t convey authenticity.

I happened to visit my brother at his new home in the final weeks before he passed away in 2015. There wasn’t any indication that this would be a significant visit, but after he died it left me being able to say, “I’m grateful”. Short videos with real people telling their “I’m grateful” stories strike me as being a more authentic treatment of the “make those moments today” concept (especially as compared with the stock photos version).

Gratitude has underrated power. And it’s undeniably human.

The terminal illness of Morrie, in the book Tuesdays with Morrie, is central to the wisdoms and life lessons that get shared. Maybe this story has themes that could be inspiration for something heartfelt.

We have licence to “honour the dead”, especially if some time has passed since their passing. It doesn’t need to be confined to September (i.e. heritage month), but there could be a whole campaign built around heroes or leaders from the past.

In similar vein is the forgotten art of the obituary. In the past weeks I’ve read some startlingly brilliant obituaries of non-famous people. Regardless of our grief, we all appreciate it when people speak well of our deceased family and friends. Doves could either host an obituaries website, or post them to Instagram (Humans of NY-style), or run an obituary writing competition.

Aside from the emotions, death has a bunch of financial implications that are crucially important to plan in advance. Perhaps those realities – which do make occasional appearances in the Doves timeline – are the only ‘safe’ space for a brand like Doves.

The question remains interesting, though, and the first part of the answer should be: “keep it human.”

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