Chevrolet Canada remembers Gord Downie with a subtle tweet
Chevrolet Canada paid tribute to iconic rock star, poet and Canadian troubadour Gord Downie, after the lead singer of The Tragically Hip died Oct. 17.
The automaker posted on its official Twitter account 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.''
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. pic.twitter.com/yMyo895ypZ
— Chevrolet Canada (@ChevroletCanada) October 18, 2017
The photo in the tweet resembled some of the art for Downie's graphic novel, The Secret Path, which shows a train track running between rows of trees.
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.
"Legitimately, ours was a true sense of mourning and the loss of an icon.''
Downie, who was diagnosed with incurable brain cancer, died Tuesday at 53.
Chevrolet Canada’s tweet was similar to an ad Chevy posted in U.S. newspapers when legendary musician Prince died in April 2016.
At that time, Chevrolet tweeted out a picture of a red, 1963 Corvette, a nod to his hit 1982 song “Little Red Corvette.” Chevrolet also ran full page ads newspapers across the United States, including The New York Times, The Detroit News and The Star Tribune.
— Chevrolet (@chevrolet) April 22, 2016
Marketing professor Ela Veresiu said such comments are risky when potential customers might be feeling especially vulnerable emotionally. But some companies might believe it helps humanize their brand.
One tweet from Hudson's Bay 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.
Veresiu found that tweet in "poor taste.''
SOCIAL MEDIA FAILS
Several companies have pulled similar stunts in the wake of other high-profile deaths.
Shortly after Prince died a quickly deleted tweet from General Mills-owned Cheerios included the words "Rest in peace'' on a purple background, with a Cheerio dotting the letter "i''.
Then there was the computer company Lenovo, which tried to link its corporate values to those of Prince with the tweet: "He embodied so much of what we prize most: fearlessness, love and a refusal to stand still. RIP, Prince.''
Similar social media gimmicks emerged in the wake of David Bowie's death last year.
London shoe retailer Office Shoes tweeted "RIP David Bowie - farewell to a legend'' and quoted lyrics from his hit "Let's Dance'' — "put on your red shoes and dance the blues.''
Meanwhile, the Bordeaux vineyard Valade & Transandine tried to lure Bowie fans with this tweet: "Celebrate the life and times of David Bowie with one of our lovely wines. May he rest in peace.''
Veresiu said companies tend to be myopic when it comes to social media, believing that only a specific demographic will view it and that if a message fails, it can easily be deleted.
"More often than not these companies don't test, don't do the proper market research for their social media campaigns prior to launch, and so they just release statements and tweets and photos on various social media platforms and hope for the best.''