Don’t Make Tourette’s Jokes on Social Media

by Matt Sullivan on January 18, 2012

Political correctness usually isn’t my thing. In fact, I often make off-color and/or inappropriate comments around my friends, but I know my audience. In those situations I’m not ignorant or spiteful, but I do like to go “over-the-top” for a reaction. On the Internetz, this is commonly called “trolling”.

Social Media FacepalmIn a public facing setting, like on Twitter or Facebook, I almost never make these comments. Without body language, context, and tone, it is hard to translate my attempt at humor into a text based medium. In this case I know that I don’t know my audience well enough for them to appreciate the ridiculousness of my statements.

That’s why brands shouldn’t make these kinds of comments. Ever.

Yes, I know that there are some brands that can get away with it, but that’s part of their image; these types of jokes are expected. But, especially if you’re trying to reach a broad audience that includes families, I would steer clear of anything that makes a joke at the expense of race, sexual orientation, income, religious background, or, as is the case below, a disability.

The story goes something like this: Lisa Barone, a marketer that I truly admire at Outspoken Media, wrote a great post on January 11, 2012 highlighting some brands that are using Pinterest. Included in that list was Chobani, the Greek yogurt company. I read it, liked it, shared it… the whole nine yards.

Imagine my surprise when I read an article in Fast Company about how Chobani uses Pinterest. Two things immediately jumped out at me:

  1. This is very similar to Lisa’s post.
  2. Chobani uses the term “Flavor Turette’s [sic]” to describe their social media feeds of fans expressing love for different flavors.

So, I let Lisa know via Twitter, because it isn’t cool when people skim content and it happens to her quite frequently. I also made a reference to the fact that she probably wouldn’t misspell Tourette’s.

What happened next left me so confused that I literally stared at my screen for a few minutes waiting for the reveal that I had been Twit Punk’d. Chobani tweeted at me and Lisa… and made a Tourette’s joke. This can’t be real life.

Chobani Tweets a Tourette's Joke

Let’s review: Lisa writes a great post about Chobani using Pinterest. Fast Company writes a similar post and quotes Chobani’s digital communications managers that their fan feed is referred to as “flavor Turettes’ in-house”. Then Chobani makes a Tourette’s joke on their branded Twitter account.

Folks – unless part of your brand image is to be irreverant and/or insulting (think Tosh.O), don’t make jokes about disabilities. It probably won’t do you any good.

P.S. Take some time to learn more about Tourette’s at the National Tourette’s Syndrome Association.

image source: www.hollywood.com

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