Royal Dutch Airlines’ World Cup tweet about Mexico causes rage

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As nations vie for the distinction of winning the World Cup, airlines seem to be competing to determine who can tweet the most insensitive image.

First, there was Delta, which tweeted an image that indicated Ghana is the home to giraffes. It isn’t. On Sunday, Royal Dutch Airlines, which goes by the initials KLM, one-upped Delta with a tweet celebrating The Netherlands’ win over Mexico.

The tweet’s text simply read, “Adios Amigos! #NEDMEX.” That was accompanied by an image of a “departures” sign that had an image of a man with a large mustache, wearing a sombrero and a bandana around his neck.

According to one observer, the tweet was up for only 25 minutes before KLM deleted it.

A good many people who saw the tweet while it was visible were incensed. Actor Gabriel Garcia Bernal, who has about 2 million followers tweeted, then deleted, a post that threatened never to fly KLM again, followed by, “F**k you big time.”

Others offered similar sentiments:

KLM offered apologies on its Twitter account, but only as replies. There’s no blanket message to everyone. Here are some of its reply tweets:

Mexico’s national airline, Aeromexico, retorted with a tweet of its own:

That one hasn’t been deleted.

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Royal Dutch Airlines Wins World Cup Twitter Fail

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For as many well-executed real-time marketing tweets, there are dozens more miserable failures.

Yesterday the Netherlands’ KLM airlines, also known as Royal Dutch, angered the Twittersphere by posting a racially insensitive Tweet after the Dutch World Cup team managed to win against Mexico in the last six minutes of Sunday’s match.

While real-time marketing is today’s in-strategy, for some brands, during some events, a smarter tactic is to not say anything at all. Brands must be aware of the social media minefield, where ordinary users lie in wait to call them out on their blunders.

Last year, Chicago-based business owner Hasan Syed spent $ 1,000 on a promoted tweet to complain about the poor customer service his family received from British Airways. In addition to his own 400 Twitter followers, 50,000 Twitter users based in New York and the United Kingdom (that Syed paid to target) saw the tweet.

The KLM tweet follows Delta’s Twitter gaffe when that airline posted a picture of a Giraffe to represent Ghana during its match with the U.S. (users were quick to point out that Giraffes are not found in Ghana).

Offensive tweets don’t just fall flat, they prompt an instantaneous backlash.

When Lupita Nyong’o won Best Supporting Actress at this year’s Academy Awards, HuffPo saw it as an opportunity to promote Chelsea Handler’s book “Uganda Be Kidding Me.”  The nonsensical tweet was also considered offensive as Nyong’o has no ties to Uganda (or Chelsea Handler) but claims dual Mexican and Kenyan citizenship.

Another airline, Qantas, provides an example of lousy timing with its hashtag promotion #QantasLuxury. The airline asked followers to share their “dream luxury in-flight experience” for a chance to win a prize. Stranded, angry customers hijacked the hashtag in reaction to cancelled contract negotiations between the company and union workers the day before; the only “luxury” they wanted was to get off the ground.

And there can be legal consequences for brands posting online as well. When Burberry used an image of Humphrey Bogart taken from the film “Casablanca” on its Facebook page, Bogart’s heirs claimed it gave consumers a false message that Bogart endorsed Burberry products. The case ended up settling out of court for an undisclosed sum.

Arby’s used the Grammys to tweet at Pharrell Williams about his Smokey the Bear hat, “Hey @Pharrell, can we have our hat back? #GRAMMYs,” risking a lawsuit for insinuating an endorsement and mentioning the artist without permission. Fortunately, Williams took no action.

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