When Brands Chase Ambulances

So. Very sad to hear about Sir David Frost – didn’t know very much about him, to be honest, having watched him on the TV on a number of occasions, having been told that he was a legend and having seen him portrayed by Michael Sheen in Frost/Nixon, but there’s a feeling that it’s the end of an era in TV interviews. And it seems to have been all a little unexpected – Sir David was not, after all, and by the standards of today, an old man, and the tributes that have been published from those who knew him imply that he was still full of vim and vigour. A sad thing and, undoubtedly, a loss.

Sir David’s passing will, of course, attract a great deal of attention because of his fame and his achievements. Had he been a chip shop owner, or an old soldier, or a jobbing PR man it is highly unlikely that the glitterati would be composing encomia and the media falling over themselves to publish them. It is also unlikely that – in the case of the chip shop owner – Pukka Pies (if the brand still exists) would have seen his death as an opportunity to promote themselves and their links to the deceased – especially if our fictional chippie owner had died with a pie in his his mouth.

So it’s with some distaste that I read the comments by one Peter Shanks, Managing Director of Cunard Line, including the gem “Cunard had a proud association with (Sir David Frost) over many years”. (I’ve posted a link to a travel trade magazine, Travel Weekly, but Mr Shanks’ comments have been reported quite widely in the mainstream.) Then, ignoring the pleas of the Frost family ‘for privacy at this difficult time’, Mr Shanks goes on “on behalf of us all at Cunard Line (I would like) to extend our deepest sympathy to his wife, family and friends.”

Now, there is, admittedly, a fine line between sympathy and ambulance chasing. The Telegraph tells us that Sir David Frost had, indeed, played many a gig on Cunard Line ships, and he probably did have some form of relationship with the brand.

But for heaven’s sake, he died on one of their boats. Surely the decent and proper thing to do would have been to send private condolences. I doubt anyone expected, or looked for, the owners of the ship on which he died to make a statement. There are times when it is better to say nothing – and this was probably one of them.

I’d venture to say that this was not the time to stress your brand’s links with the departed, because – even done in the most innocent fashion – it looks like you’re making hay while the clouds gather. And it’s not a good look.

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