The Snapchat filter that lasted more than 10 seconds

Social media empowers everyone with the means to share an opinion in a public forum with millions of people across the world – no big news there, we all know that. And brands have learnt the hard way that the people that speak up about something are often the ones who have something negative to air. Snapchat is seen by many as ‘the app of millennials’ and recently surpassed Instagram as the social media platform of choice amongst teenagers. You’d expect them to be pretty shit hot on what’s a no-go – so how did they get it so wrong with their latest themed filter?

This Wednesday, Snapchat users could share selfies of themselves transformed into Bob Marley, the reggae icon that holds a place in the hearts of people across the world. Now in itself, this is not such an issue (apart from the noise around blackfacing) but to link such an icon to a controversial event like 4/20 (even if it was unintentional) is, in my opinion, dangerous territory.

It is unsurprising that this faced a fair amount of backlash from a varied audience across the globe, ultimately you’re combining two volatile topics: racism and drugs. Every social media platform has a responsibility to protect, inform and nurture its users, especially with the amount of impressionable young people using them. This activity seemed inappropriate and misguided to promote this stereotypical, narrow-minded approach onto the future generation.

What I found most interesting was the response from the Snapchat spokesperson which suggested that the link to 4/20 was coincidence and that the filter was purely to celebrate the wonder of Bob Marley. “The lens we launched today was created in partnership with the Bob Marley Estate and gives people a new way to share their appreciation for Bob Marley and his music.” If that was the case then there’s a wider issue of who didn’t notice it was basically National Weed Day!?

Snapchat obviously didn’t intend for the tirade of negativity towards this filter but it is a good example of how piggybacking on national days and shoehorning an activity to fit your brand is a dangerous line to tread. We all want our content and activity to be relevant, fresh and engaging but it should never be at the cost of the brand. Now I’m not saying that millions of people will delete Snapchat, but I do think they have tarnished their reputation now but cheapening and devaluing the proposition.

Jessica Kirby
Senior Account Executive

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