Platitudes: A Brand's Responsibility in a Tragedy

I have this problem with platitudes.

You know what a platitude is even if you aren't familiar with the word -- those meaningless flashes in the pan of emotion that come along with any tragedy. The "Sending prayers" and "My heart is breaking" well-wishes scattered across social networks whenever calamity strikes. When people do it, I find it annoying, but forgivable. Showing support on your sleeve -- while fairly trite since you're only updating your status -- makes sense to me. After all, we're only human.

What doesn't make sense to me are the brands that feel the need to insert themselves into the conversation surrounding a tragedy. A brand is not a person. A brand cannot send prayers. A brand doesn't have a family member that won't call them in the morning. And if that's the case, then why do brands feel the need to voice condolences in times of disaster? To stay top of mind in my news feed? Something terrible happened but they wouldn't want me to forget that they're running a deal on granola, right?

On Tuesday, someone in my feed commented, "Emergencies like the bombing at the Boston Marathon expose the limitations of scheduled promotional tweets." I'll agree with that, but I'll also take it one step further and say that emergencies like the bombing at the Boston Marathon expose the limitations of a brand's ability to connect in a human way.

I don't want Etsy to send prayers. I don't need Refinery29 to live tweet the casualties. Howcast isn't responsible for thinking about me right now.

I'm willing to bet that very few, if any, of the brands that sold me their support pulled their employees from their cubicles and bottom lines to tell them to head home and hug their families a little harder.

But don't think I'm ragging on you, brands. It's not really your fault. We're conditioned to run to Facebook when we want to rage. We're tuned into Twitter for finger-pointing and split second updates. I know you only feel like you're doing the right thing -- speaking out instead of being silent. But these are the times when we don't need your products, don't desire your coupons, don't want anything else but answers to questions you can't answer for us.

It's times like these when you should stop your regularly scheduled programming, walk away from your computers and step back from the status bar. Out of respect for everything you're not, I'm asking you to drop it with the platitudes.