The biscuit brand TUC’s tweet about South Africa’s listeriosis crisis has left a bad taste in the mouth.
Many South Africans eat their polony on TUC biscuits and earlier this week, TUC tweeted that “the most iconic relationship in Satafrika” has come to an end following the listeriosis crisis.
More than 180 people have died after contracting the ST6 strain of the listeria bacteria, which has been linked to a processed meat factory in Polokwane.
Jeremy Sampson, executive director of Brand Finance Africa, says the TUC campaign is in very bad taste.
“When people have died, or been ill, don’t go there. They say all is fair in a marketing war, but there are lines you don’t cross.” One of South Africa’s foremost brand experts, Sampson has been advising companies like SAB, Nedbank and Distell for decades.
Marketing consultant Andy Rice thinks the tweet was very unwise. "Two words spring to mind: hubris and schadenfreude. They can't escape both."
The tweet scored more than 50 likes, but other Twitter users have been critical:
Hey @TUC_ZA - 180 people died, an entire industry is reeling, factories are closed, a class action law suit is looming - cool time to capitalise on tragedy! Well done! Super clever! Personally I think you’ve totally misread the tone of the #ListeriosisOutbreak #brandfail pic.twitter.com/59lcP3lU6d— Andrew Ross (@maddog_sa) March 14, 2018
If this is how you do business, trying to make money off people that have DIED, shame on you. It is also never just 1 person that give the okay for campaigns like this - you are ALL responsible. Let's hope nothing like this happens to you or the ones you love. Disgusting.— Rachelle (@CreateAStirSA) March 15, 2018
The American snack giant Mondelez manufactures TUC biscuits. A representative of TUC South Africa told Business Insider South Africa that they removed the post and "regret any offence caused".
"TUC South Africa extends their apologies for the recent social media post. The post is not indicative of the brand's opinion or values."
TUC biscuits are popular in many other parts of the world, including Europe, China, Ukraine and Egypt.
The biscuit was invented in the 1950s by a Belgian confectionary entrepreneur, who wanted to emulate the salted crackers he ate in the US. The name comes from "Trade Union Corporation" – the entrepreneur saw the name in a newspaper and thought the acronym would work well for the biscuit.
TUC’s tweet follows another faux pas in the South African Twittersphere.
As part of an online campaign, British Airways recently tweeted a curious pay-off line for an airline:
The tweet drew instant derision: