Magnotta photo flap: Labatt learns a harsh lesson in social media

Why would anyone seriously associate the longstanding beer brand with an alleged killer?


Labatt Breweries quickly learned a brutal lesson in social media marketing and PR after a legal threat against the Montreal Gazette, over the paper’s use of a photo depicting accused killer Luka Magnotta holding a bottle of Blue, transformed into a Twitter backlash mocking the beer company.

The Globe and Mail reported that Labatt had threatened to sue the Gazette unless it took down the photo, believing the association could be disastrous to its brand. Turns out, the threat has done more damage than the photo ever would.

In a letter to the Gazette, Labatt’s associate general counsel Karyn Sullivan wrote, “As I am sure you can understand, this image is highly denigrating to our brand, and we are disturbed that this image remains on your site despite repeated requests and the many images available of this person.”

And then Twitter struck. Well, specifically, National Post columnist Andrew Coyne. Coyne, mocking the brand’s overzealous concern — why would anyone seriously associate the longstanding beer brand with the alleged killer? — started the hashtag #newlabattcampaign, which quickly took off to become a top trending topic in Canada.

Andrew Coyne
I don’t always drink beer after dismembering a corpse, but when I do, I drink Blue. #newlabattcampaign

Cultural associations and media depiction can have a significant affect on brand reputation, whether over a period of time — see Burberry vs. Chavs — or in a single newscast. Many believe the Ford Bronco was…er, killed by OJ Simpson.

The similarities between Ford/OJ and Labatt/Magnotta end at both being big brands and high profile crimes. The difference that Labatt should have recognized is that OJ’s car chase was on national prime time TV, while Magnotta’s Facebook pic appeared in one city newspaper, a single image amid a sea of others in widespread international coverage.

Now, thanks to its over-enthusiastic response, Labatt is the laughingstock du jour.

This article originally appeared at Canadian Business.com


Magnotta photo flap: Labatt learns a harsh lesson in social media

  1. I thought a nice Chianti was the drink of choice.

  2. Why do the media continue to glorify this guy? Why not a police mug shot instead of the “I like me” photos?

    • 1. Up until two days ago he wasn’t arrested, so, no mug shot.
      2. Widespread and various candid photos of this guy actually helped bring him under arrest. The internect cafe owner in Germany who alerted the police recognized him from the numerous photos online and in the media. In such circumstances it can be useful to have more than just a mug shot to compare to.
      3. How is posting candid photos “glorification” why accompanied by articles describing him as a “phyco killer”. Have you seen any of Sun Media’s coverage?

  3. Large corporations, esp. ones with lawyers just sitting around, often just threaten litigation reflexively and without grounds, much like the way the Harper government speaks. They forgot they weren’t dealing with joe nobody behind a computer but with another large business with the ear of the public.

    They must have been almost as thrilled to get the letter from Labatt’s as MacLeans was when it learned there was a filing against it at the human rights commission. Headlines for days! We’re set for months!

  4. Labatt learned a lesson in social media; now if only they would learn a lesson in how to brew a beer that doesn’t taste like fermented trash.

    • careful they may try to sue you next! lol

      • That’s right. You must always say “not that there’s anything wrong with that”. Then you’re good.

  5. Who cares, we Canadians always go for the deals! This week Coors Light, next Bud

    • He should suffer for the rest of his life, slowly!

      • The same way his victim did.

  6. The very act of writing about it (Beer + Killer) associates it. So YOU are the cause of the association. Turkey.

  7. Labatt are TOTALLY within their rights!!!! WOuld you want to be associated in any way with this piece of rat crap?

  8. We all know that Magnotta had a Coke while he was in Paris, so should Coca Cola sue too? Several stories have listed the names of songs that have played during his various videos, so should those artists be concerned? This accused killer ate, drank and did all kinds of things that normal people do. He may have dehumanized his victim, but when we dehumanize Magnotta then he conveniently becomes an unearthly evil that no one has to answer for. There seem to have been warning signs and yet, if we make him out to be a monster then we don’t have to ask ourselves how this person lived for so long on the fringe. Never treated or incarcerated in all those years building up to this horrible act. I think that Labatt should apologize for being insensitive to such a heinous crime and make a donation to the fund they’ve started for the victim’s family.

  9. The fact that Labatt complained, only brought it into the media spotlight. Let it go, and people will forget about it in a week or two. You can’t compare this to OJ and his Bronco, because he was committing a crime by fleeing from the cops in a Bronco. It’s not like Magnotta was drinking the beer in the video while he was cutting a body apart. This is clearly an old photo.

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