When a celebrity dies, do companies paying tribute to the person really want to honor their memory, or is it a quick attempt at a cash-in, or to connect that person inappropriately with the firm’s brand identity? That was the question at hand when Cheerios decided to pay tribute to music legend Prince, who died Thursday at the age of 57.
Cheerios, which is based in Prince’s home state of Minnesota, tweeted on Thursday a “Rest in Peace” sign, with a purple background honoring the singer’s trademark color (and his film/hit single “Purple Rain”) , and a cereal bit replacing the dot on top of the lower case “i.” To top it off, the company added the hashtag #prince, to leave little doubt as to whom they were paying tribute to. The intent seemed like a good one, but many netizens took to the Internet to express their disappointment or anger at the tweet.
A lot of Prince fans certainly felt that the tweet was tasteless and an example of cashing in on a celebrity’s recent death. These fans felt that the company took advantage of Prince’s untimely passing to launch a marketing ploy, and one Twitter user even went as far as to compare the move to Cheerios sending a similar tweet to someone whose father died. Still, the tweet was fairly harmless to many other people, and some may have even appreciated it.
In any case, Cheerios has given in to popular demand and has taken down the tweet, but not before it went viral and created such a polarizing reaction. According to General Mills, the tweet was posted to “recognize the departure of a musical legend in (his) main residence.” The company added that it “quickly decided that we didn’t want the tweet to be misinterpreted, and removed it out of respect for Prince and those mourning.”