Controversy is certainly no stranger to the case of Trayvon Martin, the unarmed 17-year-old Miami teen who was fatally shot last month by neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman. The incident inflamed racial tensions across the nation and spawned countless rallies, a civil rights probe, and even a comment by President Obama about the case. It’s also given rise to an equally contentious practice—productization of the tragedy.
From tee-shirts to trademarked slogans (e.g., “Justice for Trayvon”), would-be entrepreneurs are popping up hoping to convert calamity into cash. Having bought two trademarks, even Trayvon’s parents are participating, although they’re quick to clarify that in their loss they’re trying to gain something beyond spending money—cash for a cause to help other families struck by tragedy.
Does a profit motive behind the commercialization of a catastrophe in any way negate a brand’s worth? Many branding experts say no. The best brands are meaningful, they explain, and what can be more meaningful than showing solidarity and commiserating with like-minded people? They conclude by asking “isn’t that what wearing Trayvon buttons and hoodies are all about?”
It’s an interesting though provocative question, and one without a clear answer. What do you think? We’d love to hear your thoughts.