Don't Shoot Cecil the Lion Before Vetting Vendors
On Wednesday, a Minnesota man in a healing profession was being skewered on social media for allegedly luring a lion out of an animal conservancy in Zimbabwe and shooting the animal with a bow and arrow on July 6. Dentist Walter J. Palmer and his guide allegedly spent 40 hours tracking a wounded "Cecil the Lion" before using a gun to fire the fatal shot into the 13-year-old massive feline. In a letter dated Tuesday and sent to his "valued patients," Palmer claims he did nothing wrong. His office was closed on Tuesday and Wednesday and the impact on his business offers marketers an extreme cautionary tale about vetting vendors, because casting blame on them in a crisis may not save the brand.
"I hired several professional guides and they secured all proper permits," Palmer writes, according to the Facebook post from a news anchor at KSTP-TV in Minneapolis. "To my knowledge, everything about this trip was legal and properly handled and conducted."
As of Wednesday night, more than 2 million YouTube viewers had heard otherwise from a tearful late-night show host, Jimmy Kimmel.
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By Wednesday night, protesters gathered outside Palmer's office, animal rights activists started a White House petition to have him extradited "to face justice in Zimbabwe" and truth-seeking site Snopes.com wrote up a post titled "Cecil the Lion and Walter the Dentist." Hint: The post says "two local hunters who aided Palmer" are facing charges and it lists a previous charge against the dentist for lying to federal officials about killing a black bear in Wisconsin.
"The saddest part of all is that now that Cecil is dead," states the anti-poaching organization Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force on Tuesday, "the next lion in the heirarchy, Jericho, will most likely kill all Cecil’s cubs so that he can insert his own bloodline into the females. This is standard procedure for lions."
Here's why marketers may want to vet vendors and avoid being Palmer:
1. Does What's Happening Just Feel Wrong? Roaming around at night with a spotlight, then tying a dead animal to the vehicle to lure a lion out of a protected park to kill and skin the animal and behead him may not feel right. In an everyday, less conscience-bothering move, marketers may decide black-hat practices are OK. Eventually, Google catches up. Keyword-packing is gone. Email providers frown on batch-and-blast campaigns that don't garner opens and clicks. Super Bowl fans blasted GoDaddy's commercial attempt at a poor-taste puppy joke. Sometimes doing the right thing pays off; hence, Budweiser's puppy portrayal did well.
2. Will Social Media Catch Up? Maybe it's time for Las Vegas to change its slogan. "What Happens in Vegas, Stays in Vegas." Is that really true? What happened in Zimbabwe didn't stay in Zimbabwe.
— David Badash (@davidbadash) July 29, 2015
3. Casting Blame on Vendors Doesn't Seem to Work. This is self-explanatory.
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