Social Media

Wool manufacturer clips marketing campaign in wake of South Australian and Victorian bushfires

Broede Carmody /

A business specialising in Merino wool products has pulled the plug on one of its marketing campaigns after a series of scheduled tweets from the company promoting wool as naturally flame resistant coincided with the recent South Australian and Victorian bushfires.

The Woolmark Company published a series of tweets to its almost 40,000 Twitter followers as fires raged across the two states late last week. In South Australia, more than 100 people have attended hospital for treatment and tens of thousands of hectares of land in the Adelaide Hills has been burnt – with both property and livestock destroyed.

Mumbrella reports The Woolmark Company collaborated with the Australian Wool Testing Authority to also create a video to promote the benefits of wool and how it can be used to decrease fire risks within the home. The tweets, which were scheduled ahead of time, and other content have since been deleted.

It is not the first time a business has made an online blunder when it comes to bushfires. Two years ago a business in Queensland was forced to withdraw a campaign where it asked people to like its Facebook post in exchange for donating generators to the victims of the 2013 Tasmanian bushfires.

READ MORE: How an act of bushfire generosity generated social media goodwill for this Adelaide hotel

Michelle Rovere, from Belles & Whistles Communications, told SmartCompany scheduled tweets are important in a day and age when businesses are expected to provide regular content to their customers and online audiences.

“For a lot of organisations due to resourcing, it becomes a critical part of any content strategy,” Rovere says.

“It enables people to behave strategically on social media. However, using social media also comes with a level of responsibility – you need to keep up to the minute with what’s happening around you.”  

But in this instance, Rovere says it appears The Woolmark Company’s marketing campaign was simply bad timing and was not intentionally trying to capitalise on the bushfires in order to make a profit.

“It’s just very unfortunate with the timing,” she says.

“But you’d expect most organisations to react quite quickly to alter or adapt content which is probably a little bit insensitive or inappropriate. When you take on that commitment to participate in social media and connect with audiences, you have a responsibility to provide content that is reliable and valuable.”

Rovere says adjusting content that is scheduled to appear in light of world events is “just basic good business”. However, she points out this is not always possible for various reasons, including staffing numbers and working hours. If this is the case, she advises businesses to act swiftly in order to maintain their good reputation.

Rovere points to the fact that lots of Australian businesses have been pledging their support to people who have lost their homes, businesses and livestock in the fires. She says in this particular case it would not hurt for The Woolmark Company to do the same, if they haven’t already.

“Something like, ‘Our thoughts are with those affected’,” she says.

“Whether they are in a position to apologise is something they need to judge. Sometimes pledging support to people involved can be a little bit more genuine and sincere.”

SmartCompany contacted The Woolmark Company but did respond prior to publication.

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Broede Carmody

Broede Carmody is a former senior SmartCompany reporter. Before this, he was a co-editor of RMIT University's student magazine Catalyst.

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