MARKETING

How Not to Market Your Start-Up: Fake a School Shooting

One start-up learned the hard way that negative stunts don't bring positive buzz.
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This may be the worst marketing idea of 2013: Faking a school shooting to advertise your start-up.  

The team at Bevii, a social media app founded by students at the University of North Carolina, learned this hard way on Thursday. They sent a marketing email that tricked their college classmates into believing there was a shooting occuring on campus, reports Valleywag's Sam Biddle.

"Chapel Hill Police are investigating a report of innovation which occurred around 10:01 a.m., Monday, October 14," the message began. "The current suspect is Bevii, a mobile, location-based social network only available to select Universities." 

It didn't sit well with students that the email copied the format of UNC's university-sanctioned alert system, alertcarolina.com. The university has blocked Bevii on its servers, and now it will be hard to downplay the stunt. 

Obviously, Bevii isn't the first company to make a tasteless marketing move. Just last month, AT&T came under fire for its 9/11 tribute tweet and Facebook post, which featured a smartphone framing a shot of the Twin Towers' lights. Other brands were also criticized for tacky 9/11 promotions. 

These sorts of moves can leave lasting damage to your company's reputation. As social media expert Gary Vaynerchuk recently told business owners at the Inc. 500 conference, "If you are using tragic events to build up your topline following number, you're a piece of shit." 

IMAGE: Shutterstock
Last updated: Oct 18, 2013

JILL KRASNY | Staff Writer | Staff Writer

Jill Krasny is a staff writer for Inc. magazine, where she covers the intersection of entertainment and startups. Prior to Inc., she was a writer for MTV and Esquire and an editor at TheStreet. She is a graduate of the University of Southern California with a degree in communication. She lives in New York City.




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