Microsoft and others have received lessons in reputation management over comments following the death of Amy Winehouse.

Microsoft made the biggest negative splash with an opportunistic Twitter post that attempted to drum up some business for its Zune media player (most likely to be known for its complete failure to garner anything but the most meager market share despite all of Redmond’s attempts in the past years). The Tweetbox360 message on Sunday read "Remember Amy Winehouse by downloading the ground-breaking 'Back to Black' over at Zune [followed by a link to the store]”.

When the flood of anger and dismay began to give Microsoft second thoughts, the company posted a dutifully contrite follow-up. "Apologies to everyone if our earlier Amy Winehouse 'download' tweet seemed purely commercially motivated. Far from the case, we assure you."

Of course, not everyone was reassured that Microsoft’s heart was in the right place, and some with longer-than-average memories brought up the eerily similar furor over the company’s tweet in the aftermath of the Japanese tsunami. In an attempt to promote another product that has so far failed so spectacularly that it verges on a joke -- in this case, the Bing search engine -- Microsoft offered to trade re-tweets for a contribution to a $100,000 donation to Japanese quake victims. And just as now, the response was so universally offended that Microsoft was forced to issue an apology (although not, obviously, a promise that it won’t happen again).

However, the Winehouse tragedy has been something of a boon for the callous and opportunistic. The U.S. Representative for Missouri, Republican Billy Long, tweeted “No one could reach #AmyWinehouse before it was too late. Can anyone reach Washington before it's too late? Both addicted -- same fate???". Of course he was forced to apologize, but gathered only enough to say “If anyone took offense, I sincerely apologize.”

The trend for halfhearted apologies continued when performer Keri Hilson attempted to make up for a particularly nasty comment with poor backpedalling. Referring to a drag queen in a picture as a “resurrected” Amy Winehouse was in poor enough taste, but saying “As a fan, I thought it was cool that she dressed up to honor Amy...I had no ill intent, but I understand how it appears insensitive” seems to imply that she feels that anyone following her Twitter account must be significantly gullible and lacking in critical faculties..

While nobody is denying that the singer’s public persona lent itself to an often larger-than-life caricature of self-destructiveness, those who have treated her premature demise too lightly have certainly felt the wrath of fans and critics alike. Marketing -- of a product, an ideology, or simply of one’s own groundless celebrity -- should probably be handled with care, for practical reasons as well as for simple human decency.

 

James Lee Phillips is a Senior Writer & Research Analyst for IBG.com. With offices in Dallas, Las Vegas, and New York, & London, IBG is quickly becoming the leading expert in Internet Marketing, Local Search, SEO, Website Development and Reputation Management. More information can be found at www.ibg.com. ChristinaDomecq is a motivational speaker and is transforming lives through clear and effective communication.