By Nethmi Dissanayake
The killing of a 30-year-old woman by a man made an uproar on social media over the past weeks, but for all the wrong reasons. In last week’s article, “Making mockery of a murder: Of suitcase memes and lack of sensitivity”, we spoke about how the social media communities and meme creators have taken this matter very light-heartedly, and today, we talk about another disheartening side of the same story, that is how the “marketing geniuses” have turned this shocking incident to their advantage.
The “suitcase memes” have now paved the way for businesses to use this incident as clickbait for business opportunities. All in all, the morals of our society seem to be diminishing with every meme and clickbait post. But why do people view the same incident as either horrendous, where a woman was brutally murdered, or as an opportunity to benefit and think “let’s make some posts and use this to gain profits for our business”?
Missing the bigger picture
Licensed clinical psychologist Shanelle De Almeida helped us understand why people saw this as an opportunity to create a buzz for their own business opportunities rather than advocating for why this is wrong and ensuring women’s safety more. She explained: “It stems from a combination of ignorance, insecurity, and indifference.”
The meaning of ignorance, as stated in the dictionary, is “the lack of knowledge or information”; insecurity is defined as “uncertainty or anxiety about oneself; the lack of confidence”; and indifference is “lack of interest, concern, or sympathy”.
This demonstrates that they are trying to fill a void by being “creative” and ignoring the depth of this issue, not knowing the harm they cause. They are clearly missing the bigger picture here.
De Almeida went on to say: “This is evidence of the intrinsic misogyny that is present in everyday society. We often see the repercussions of this as mental health professionals. This makes it easy for those who lack emotional intelligence to exploit these kinds of tragedies.”
Not only do education, profession, and wealth play a part in one’s character, but one’s emotional intelligence is equally important. Good values and empathy come from emotional intelligence.
Have they decided to keep their emotions aside and just do what might be good for their business by creating these advertisements, or have they no empathy?
Anything for short-term gain?
“Ethical marketing isn’t a strategy, it’s a philosophy,” said executive digital marketer and entrepreneur Roshintha Perera.
“I think that more than anything, people should confront the marketers behind those brands and teach them about being ethical and being human. This incident wasn’t and still isn’t something that should be taken lightly. A human being was murdered and one should never try to sell a product by using someone else’s downfall, or in worse cases, death, to his/her advantage.
“This is a fundamental ethic that should be taught very seriously to students who so eagerly complete their marketing degrees and qualifications. Having to teach someone all over again how to be a human being is clearly telling of problems in our education system. Marketers need to concentrate on being more practical rather than theoretical,” opined Perera.
Perera added that if they evaluated the situation from a more humane lens rather than from a marketing perspective only, they wouldn’t have used this incident to their advantage. “I believe all marketing campaigns have to be ethical. It should always be about whatever product or service a company provides and how it will benefit social or environmental causes; not damage them even more.”
She further explained that ethical marketing is not a strategy, it’s a philosophy. It includes everything from ensuring advertisements are honest and trustworthy, to building strong relationships with consumers through many shared values. “After presenting a campaign to one’s seniors (in the company), I sincerely do not understand how anyone had the heart to give the ‘go ahead’ for such unethical campaigns,” she said
“Selling a product or service and generating profits is always the end goal of any company, but sometimes, you have to stop and think if a marketing campaign is ethical or not before you go ahead with it. The end goal should be to create a massive value around your product or service so that your customers won’t turn a blind eye on you. And that is why people who fail to understand how to bring value to their business and sustain it in the long run, will do anything to have a boom in sales even for a short while. That includes using the murder of a woman to their advantage.”
Moving towards an emotionally impaired society
“The decline of our morals and ethics is horrifying,” said Advocate and Cause Marketing Consultant Shanuki De Alwis. “We have become numb to other people’s pain or experiences. The inability to empathise or be respectful towards the victim of the shocking murder is a sign of psychological disconnect. The people who have created memes and ads for the sake of popularity and viral value have had little or no regard for the grief of the murdered woman’s family who will witness them mocking her death this way.”
De Alwis added that choosing to turn the tragedy into clickbait or humour is akin to murdering her over and over again, with every laugh they aim for. We should be worried because society has become so deeply insensitive and heartless, she said, adding: “I wonder how these people would respond to a tragedy of their loved one being mocked and turned into commercial gimmicks on social media.”
She pointed out how these people are directly contributing to influencing an entire society to become as emotionally impaired as them. The ridiculing of this incident is a clear indication of the systematic discrimination of women to the point where they have become the subject of derogatory or tasteless humour.
“Someone who can exploit a tragic death this way for their own benefit is perfectly capable of causing harm to others in order to get ahead, because they have demonstrated a lack of ethics and values.”
With a heavy heart, she shared how these jokes are normalising murder and suicide. It is deplorable how uncaring we have become, and this is a threat to our relationships going forward, she added.
It is horrifying that people choose to monetarily gain, profit, and personally benefit from someone else’s tragedy, completely disregarding morals and ethics.