Oct. 4, 2012 at 9:21 AM ET
KitchenAid is famous for its mixers, but the brand learned the hard way about the perils of mixing personal political views with official company messaging on social media.
On Thursday morning, parent company Whirlpool was in damage-control mode after an offensive message was sent from the company’s official Twitter account during last night’s presidential debate.
“Obamas gma even knew it was going 2 b bad! 'She died 3 days b4 he became president',” the Tweet read, a response to a reference President Barack Obama made about his grandmother’s passing. It was quickly deleted, but not before a flurry of screenshots and retweets thwarted the attempt at erasure.
KitchenAid’s senior director of marketing Cynthia Soledad followed up with a series of Tweets apologizing for the “irresponsible tweet that is in no way a representation of the brand's opinion.”
“It was carelessly sent in error by a member of our Twitter team who, needless to say, won't be tweeting for us anymore,” she wrote. “That said, I take full responsibility for my team. Thank you for hearing me out.”
In a statement, Soledad said an employee intending to Tweet the comment from a personal Twitter account mistakenly sent it from the company’s account instead. “Appropriate actions are being taken” regarding that employee, she said.
In general, branding experts say that one-off gaffes like this, while embarrassing in the short term, don’t do lasting damage to a brand. A swift, contrite apology like Soledad’s is the best response to offensive employee behavior. The incident does illustrate the perils companies face as they try to juggle an increasing number of communication channels, some of which must be managed in real time, while maintaining a consistent brand voice.
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