For many, cereal maker Cheerios had a tasteless way of bidding Prince goodbye.
The General Mills-owned company tweeted on Thursday, April 21, a message on Prince's passing, earning the ire of many fans who considered the message offensive and a way to take advantage of the tragic death.
It was a simple tribute tweeted at 2:17 p.m. on that day and accompanied by the hashtag #prince. The image showed "Rest in peace," the words resting on a purple background. A Cheerio, however, replaced the dot of the letter "i."
Twitter users were quick to react, accusing the brand of exploiting the occasion, with some turning to sarcasm to hit the apparent marketing move. Cheerios deleted the tweet afterwards, but not without escaping the power of screenshots and the wrath of those in the twittersphere.
"Mysteriously, somehow, my love of Prince and my sadness at his passing have transferred into a love and desire for cheerios," read part of user Patrick Cosmos' tweet.
Knowing fully well it's taking heat for the tweet, Cheerios released a statement saying as a Minnesota brand, it sought to acknowledge the death of a legend coming from its own hometown.
"But we quickly decided that we didn't want the tweet to be misinterpreted, and removed it out of respect for Prince and those mourning," Cheerios said.
Cheerios, however, isn’t the only Minnesota-based firm to honor Prince – by involving its own brand in the imagery. 3M depicted its own logo in purple, while Kentucky-based Maker’s Mark bourbon reposted an old image of a purple-topped bottle.
For crisis management expert Jessa Moore, this isn’t a good way for corporations to honor the passing of a celebrity or renowned personality. She dubbed it insensitive and akin to saying, "We're going to capitalize on his death so we show up in a search algorithm."
Other brands also recently found themselves in trouble over a tweet. Last week, Yum Brands' KFC chain in Australia was in hot water for an excessively suggestive image in line with promoting "something hot and spicy."
The 57-year-old Prince died on Thursday at his Chanhassen, Minnesota home. The superstar was found unresponsive in an elevator in Paisley Park Studios, pronounced dead at 10:07 a.m. or less than half an hour after paramedics were dispatched to the scene.
The icon became popular in the late 1970s and skyrocketed to fame with the hits "Kiss" and "Purple Rain." He transcended borders and did everything from funk to R&B and rock and roll, excelling as a "virtuoso instrumentalist, a brilliant bandleader, and an electrifying performer," according to President Barack Obama.
Photo: Mike Mozart | Flickr