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.

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