by Rachael Pottner
While sponsoring ESPN’s College Game Day in 2013, The Home Depot showed off their “Bucket Brigade,” a group of percussionists using the store’s signature paint buckets as their instruments. They also used social media as a way to embrace this campaign, posting pictures of the Brigade on their Twitter account. Of the pictures, one particular picture was posted that sparked repercussion from The Home Depot’s over 160,000 Twitter followers at the time. The posted tweet featured two African-American men sitting and drumming on the signature paint buckets, with a person sitting in-between the men in a monkey costume. The picture was captioned with “Which drummer is not like the others? See more @CollegeGameDay pics at hdgameday.com #HDgameday #football.”
The picture and tweet went viral almost immediately, and was deemed racist by The Home Depot followers. Backlash also ensued via social media, especially from the African American community. When corporate saw the tweet, they acted promptly, deleting the image and tweet. However, the damage was already done, and before The Home Depot could send out a stream of apologies, they had already created a huge social media fail.
Within a couple hours of the deletion of the initial tweet, The Home Depot Twitter account tweeted an apology, stating, “We have zero tolerance for anything so stupid and offensive. Deeply sorry. We terminated agency and individual who posted it.” Along with this tweet, The Home Depot responded to many individuals’ tweets backfiring at the company as well. One is an apology issued to the NAACP and @Officially Ice, where they apologized for their “dumb” tweet and stated that it had been deleted.
In one respect, some Twitter followers did think that the racism was projected onto the tweet, but The Home Depot made no fail of mention that they knew they had messed up and that the tweet was stupid by the way they quickly handled the incident by terminating the agency and individual that tweeted it and the outpouring of apologies. The YouTube video of the Bucket Brigade with the featured costumed individual has since been made private following the Twitter disaster, which is more evidence that The Home Depot tried to disintegrate the racist allegations that had been thrown on them via social media.
After issuing their apology, respondents took to all forms of social media, even outside of Twitter, to display their thoughts on the incident. Some people criticized The Home Depot for trying to deflect the blame of the incident on an outside company, while others appreciated the apology and moved on to the next social media fail.
The Home Depot’s fault wasn’t in how they handled the occurrence. They pulled out all their communication and public relations crisis management rebuttals without failure. Their fault was in not monitoring their social media correctly, and letting such a tweet, with bad taste that could be misconstrued, get out to the public in the first place. It shed a light on their company that no marketing or campaign director would ever try to accomplish, and if The Home Depot had a do-over, they would definitely take it. The Home Depot is taking steps to ensure another social-media fail does not happen in the future, stating, “We’re also closely reviewing our social media procedures to determine how this could have happened, and how to ensure it never happens again.”
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