Cheerios Angers Fans With Tweet About Prince’s Death

Apr 21, 2016

Brands are sometimes too eager to be part of the national conversation, leading them to send out ill-advised tweets.

Cheerios, which is owned by General Mills (gis), really stepped in it on Thursday, sending out a nice enough tweet out about music legend Prince's passing but angering many fans who saw it as taking advantage of a tragedy so quickly after his death.

At 2:17 p.m., soon after shocked fans learned of the Purple One's death, Cheerios sent out a tweet with the a simple "Rest in peace" message against a purple backdrop, with a Cheerio to punctuate the i, and #prince.

Screen Shot 2016-04-21 at 4.09.13 PM Screenshot from Twitter page 

It didn't take long for many in the twittersphere to accuse Cheerios of being exploitative.

https://twitter.com/Stepto/status/723243399390748674

Or to mock Cheerios' tweet as a cheap marketing ploy:

Cheerios promptly deleted the tweeted, but the message was saved on countless screenshots.

"As a Minnesota brand, Cheerios wanted to acknowledge the loss of a musical legend in our 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," the company said in a statement to Fortune.

But the company can take solace in knowing it's not the first brand to try too hard or discover that social media can be brutal.

In 2014, electronics retailer Best Buy (bby) had to apologize for a tweet that seemed to make light of a real-life, 15-year-old murder case at the center of the popular "Serial" podcast after it set off a firestorm of controversy. In 2013, Home Depot (hd) landed in hot water over a tweet showing two African-American drummers with a person in a gorilla mask in between them and asked: "Which drummer is not like the others?" and apologized for the tweet and firing the agency that sent it.

More recently, Yum Brands' (yum) KFC chain last week landed in trouble over a tweet to promote "something hot and spicy," that featured an almost pornographic image.

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