Dr. King is not a marketing campaign

Last Monday was Martin Luther King, Jr. day in the United States. It’s a day to honor the life and legacy of the famed civil rights leader who was assassinated in 1968. Because it’s a national holiday, some businesses try to use Dr. King or his work as part of their marketing.

Take, for example, Snarky Tea. Snarky Tea is a retailer of herbal teas with profane names. We have several in our house, including “Get Your A** in Bed”. Which, I assume, is what they were trying to sell when they sent this email on Monday.

Screencapture of an email with the subject "He had a dream... and you can too"

Oh no. This is a very bad look. What does the rest of the email say?

Screencapture of an email that reads in part "We were trying to think of a way to honor the great Martin Luther King, Jr but we're a profanity-laden tea company and this is the best we could come up with. Please don't judge us — we're doing our best over here."

Somehow, I don’t think tacitly admitting you knew this was a bad idea is the right thing to do. As I said on Twitter, if you’re thinking about using Dr. King in your marketing, just fuckin’ don’t.

Despite what Boston Globe columnists think, racism is still a problem in the United States. Dr. King was perhaps the best known civil rights activist and it got him killed. To use his most iconic speech as a way of selling tea is problematic.

Fifty-one years after his death, white America is happy to celebrate the parts of Dr. King’s legacy that we are comfortable with. Even Steve “What’s so bad about being a white supremacist?” King (no relation) is quick to jump on the bandwagon. But the reality is that we have not yet reached Dr. King’s dream. To use his legacy in this context is awful. We can do better. We must do better.

Update: if you can’t take the heat, stay out of the tea kettle

SnarkyTea blocked me on Twitter because of this post. They can be snarky, but they can’t handle being told they’re wrong.

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