Hyundai Apologies for Ad Capitalizing on Murdered Baby

Hyundai Motor Company has apologized for a social media post linking car safety to a murdered two-month-old baby. The baby was abducted from an SUV and then strangled and buried in the snow. Of course, people were horrified by the event and took to Weibo, China's microblogging site for consolation and updates.Weibo

A post on Hyundai's Weibo account referenced the new Santa Fe SUV's safety features. The company says it was posted by a non-employee and has since deleted the post:

"A few thoughts following the Changchun stolen car and child incident: When buying a car it's completely okay to choose brands with better technology. Tianhe Buicks carry the OnStar GPS system, which can track down the location of a stolen vehicle at any time and automatically report it to the police. Feel at ease, have peace of mind, if you're going to buy a car, why not choose a completely safe Buick!!!. Sales Hotline: 024-86547880 86547881 QQ:521279389 2523275273"

 In an email to Bloomberg, Hyundai apologized:

"We pledge to be more vigilant in managing our social networking service accounts, while we send our deepest condolences to the victim's family. Hyundai Motor is a responsible corporate citizen that is not in the practice of taking advantage of tragic incidents."

According to Bloomberg, GM has been more reluctant to comment: 

"Dayna Hart, a Shanghai-based spokeswoman for GM, which owns the Buick brand, said the U.S. automaker is monitoring the situation and isn't ready yet to comment."

Aside from the egregious overuse of exclamation marks, the post does what other brands have regretted: "newsjack"-take advantage of news for the purpose of sales. Some strategies work well, such as Oreo's tweet during the Super Bowl. But many others have failed because of poor taste and inevitable backlash.

Discussion Starters: 

  • What other companies have tried newsjacking and failed? 
  • If you were consulting for a company, what criteria would you identify to help the management team decide whether to hook into something trending on Twitter or Weibo?