Microsoft tried to use South Korea ferry disaster for Office 365 promotion

There is a saying that all PR is good PR, but a recent development may have pushed that statement beyond its limits. If you have been watching the news lately, you will surely have seen the tragedy in South Korea in which the ferry Sewol capsized and sank, with 30 people so far confirmed dead and over 260 still missing. Most of those onboard the vessel - and indeed most of those still missing - were high-school students.

The disaster has saddened people across the globe, and especially so in South Korea itself. So, if you are the folks who work at Microsoft in South Korea, what should you do? Perhaps extend an Office marketing promotion in memory of the tragedy? Perhaps not - surely that would be too crass.

And yet, that's exactly what Microsoft did in a post on their Facebook page, seen above. The post detailed the extension of an Office 365 promotion, in memory of those who died on the ferry. Because, of course, that's exactly what those families are looking for - to get Office 365 subscriptions to commemorate those who were lost.

The Facebook post was quickly pulled from their page as the company's South Korean followers lashed out against its tasteless and insensitive nature. Naturally, trying to use a tragedy such as this for marketing efforts is never going to sit well with the general public.

Microsoft isn't the only company whose lack of sensitivity has been in the public spotlight lately. It was recently revealed that Samsung wanted to take advantage of the death of Steve Jobs as the turning point for its Galaxy marketing efforts.

Thanks for the image anon!

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This is at least the second time isn't it ?
They did similar promotion before and pulled the advertisement too.

Which bring question about how the marketing staffs could even think it's a good idea. Isn't it obvious enough there will be a backlash from it ?

This is why I say MS is one disgusting greedy company which does not value human life but wants to fill it coffers with money under any circumstances.

Auditor said,
This is why I say MS is one disgusting greedy company which does not value human life but wants to fill it coffers with money under any circumstances.

You say that like no other company is like that...

Get rid of labor and equality laws and see how fast all your "beloved" corporations will find every way possible to screw you over and make money.

Auditor said,
This is why I say MS is one disgusting greedy company which does not value human life but wants to fill it coffers with money under any circumstances.

So, you judge a whole company on the idiotic actions of a few social media workers?

Dot Matrix said,

So, you judge a whole company on the idiotic actions of a few social media workers?

So people should be only judging when Bill Gates or Nadella post the offensive offers ?

Auditor said,

So people should be only judging when Bill Gates or Nadella post the offensive offers ?

You tell me. That's what you appear to be doing.

Dot Matrix said,

You tell me. That's what you appear to be doing.

I thought you would have figured it out by yourself but apparently not.

What MSFT should do now is give all the families affected by this horrible disaster at least 1 years free subscription to Office365...

Enron said,
What for?

Just a gesture of goodwill and it would be extremely good positive publicity...If you think there`s nothing wrong with it, fine, personally i find it a bit crass!

prettyconfusd said,
That would be even worse publicity than the initial post and far more crass.

Why`s that? Surely if Microsoft came out and said "look we made a mistake and are very sorry for possibly causing any uneeded stress. As a token of goodwill we would like to offer the families of anyone concerned with this terrible tragedy 1 years free subscription."
I don`t see what`s wrong with that, sometimes it takes guts to own up to being/doing something wrong, even if it was just one stupid employee!

Because either way the headline becomes: "Heartless Microsoft offers free Office subscription to grieving families" as if that would be worth a damn at a time like this anyway?

I love getting stuff for free but in this case the apology is enough and whoever made the decision to post that should watch and learn from how other not-involved-in-the-accident companies (that don't provide aid in some way) have dealt with it: steer clear and don't get involved.

This isn't Microsoft's story to spin.

Yes it was just a local incident. I doubt a promotion related to the ferry disaster would make a big impression in the States given most people probably don't even know about it.

This is why companies need to be very careful about who they allow to post on their official social media outlets. Those people need to have their head on straight. The guy that posted this, clearly did not.

In this case, like others in the past, MS did what it could to reduce the damage with a quick reaction to take it down and apologize. There will probably be a firing involved as well considering the seriousness of the event.

Microsoft isn't the only one that has had black marks against them thanks to something said on social media or a campaign they tried to implement. In recent years alone, you can point to just about every major tech company and find the same issues. Focusing on the social media side of it specifically, it seems that all of these companies still don't have a grasp on more oversight for those that can use their official social media accounts. Sony comes to mind for some recent issues it had to deal with.

The reality is that when you are a large company with so many employees, sometimes you will get a remark that does really match what you would have wanted to see. MS just has to be more diligent in policing this side of things to prevent such things before they happen.

As far as my own reaction, it was a very stupid mistake, just no excuse for whoever decided to do that. MS will have to pick of the pieces moving forward. All they can do is make up for it through better actions.

I know people assume MS just does stuff like this and only has a history of bad behavior, but it does have good behavior too and times when people have praised them for things they have done in response to various events. Let's hope they try to do more good than evil going forward :laugh:


It takes a single minute to lose trust in a company, in this case Microsoft. It will take a year or years to rebuild that trust in Korea again.

Scroogled campaign was just crass. It made more enemies. Remember the same Microsoft will need to be Google's good books to put Office for Android in the play store. When Google declined to put her apps in Windows Phone store citing the low numbers the scroogled campaign should not have been the answer. With Windows phone 8.1 Google will have to put her apps in Windows Phone store because the users will demand it and that is the correct reaction to Google's rejection.

It takes a single minute to lose trust in a company, in this case Microsoft. It will take a year or years to rebuild that trust in Korea again.

No it will not...By next week most people would have completely forgotten about this, and judging how Neowin is the only news site to report it and the post was (allegedly) removed pretty quickly...it's a safe bet to say not many people even saw it.

-Razorfold said,
No it will not...By next week most people would have completely forgotten about this, and judging how Neowin is the only news site to report it and the post was (allegedly) removed pretty quickly

Nah, it was real, there's an apology posted from the same account. Fire up that translator.. maybe somebody who can actually read it could post a translation, Bing and Google are mangling it rather badly.
https://www.facebook.com/Officekorea/posts/654369977964541

Max Norris said,

Nah, it was real, there's an apology posted from the same account. Fire up that translator.. maybe somebody who can actually read it could post a translation, Bing and Google are mangling it rather badly.
https://www.facebook.com/Officekorea/posts/654369977964541

I didn't say it wasn't real. Just that the post was allegedly removed very quickly from their facebook, that minimizes the amount of people who saw it.

Samir Shah_348581 said,
With Windows phone 8.1 Google will have to put her apps in Windows Phone store because the users will demand it and that is the correct reaction to Google's rejection.
Users have been demanding them for quite some time now and Microsoft even did the hard work yet Google put a spoke in it. If you think those official apps are coming any time soon you're most likely mistaken (although I'd love to be proven wrong in this case).

About this incident in particular, public memory is short. Corporations have done far worse and even caused loss of lives and still people continue to trust them or use their products. Politicians make far worse crass comments and people forget in no time. Just how it is.

Wow this actually might be the first time Neowin has had an exclusive news report that no other site does!!

Pretty tasteless an I'm glad they pulled it and apologized for whoever it was that posted it.

I'm not sure how the Office promo is connected to a tragedy.

I understand when someone famous dies and retailers put out the "In remembrance..." because people will flock to it and buy buy buy so they can say "I was a fan," but this?

theyarecomingforyou said,
After the Scroogled campaign I'm hardly surprised.

Yes, it is now so obvious that the South Korean officials also must be behind the Scroogled campaign.

As only [theyarecomingforyou] could analogize, informing users how a competitor is taking advantage of their information is EXACTLY like a tasteless campaign based on tragic death.

/s

Mobius Enigma said,
Yes, it is now so obvious that the South Korean officials also must be behind the Scroogled campaign.

I never suggested such a thing. My point was that Microsoft has a history of tasteless advertising.

Mobius Enigma said,
Yes, it is now so obvious that the South Korean officials also must be behind the Scroogled campaign.

Exactly.. there's a big difference between an official campaign from Redmond versus an act of dumbassery by an employee in another country. (Which has already posted an apology, if anyone actually cares.) Bad taste, sure, I'd be surprised if someone isn't losing their job. But yea, let's make it look like Microsoft HQ did this, just because it's MS and it's good for fueling more rhetoric.

theyarecomingforyou said,
If you say so.

I do say so. An example. My wife works with for a company that has offices in a handful of countries. Say she decides to get on their Twitter account and post something stupid. You're saying that's an official statement from the executives, even though they were never brought into it at all?

Brilliant. Let's ignore common sense and reality just to keep the rhetoric going.

theyarecomingforyou said,

I never suggested such a thing. My point was that Microsoft has a history of tasteless advertising.


I wouldn't call the scroogled campaign tasteless. It's stupid sure, but not tasteless. rather different meanings there...

Mobius Enigma said,

Yes, it is now so obvious that the South Korean officials also must be behind the Scroogled campaign.

It suggests there's a culture in Microsoft that'll do anything to trash the competition or exploit loss of life to further their agenda of product promotion. I'm not at all surprised given Microsoft's past behaviour. How you can try and defend their actions beggars belief.

Mobius Enigma said,

As only [theyarecomingforyou] could analogize, informing users how a competitor is taking advantage of their information is EXACTLY like a tasteless campaign based on tragic death.

It's the same company, the same policies, the same hypocrisy, the same culture of tastelessness. Whether it's in the US or Korea, it's the same company. They'll go to any lengths to promote their products, as this incident illustrates. It disgusts me.

simplezz said,
It suggests there's a culture in Microsoft that'll do anything to trash the competition or exploit loss of life to further their agenda of product promotion. I'm not at all surprised given Microsoft's past behaviour.

Scroll up, directly relevant. And the same thing goes in reverse. There's a "culture" of people like yourselves who'll say anything, no matter how ridiculous, to trash Microsoft. That disgusts me too.

It suggests there's a culture in Microsoft that'll do anything to trash the competition or exploit loss of life to further their agenda of product promotion. I'm not at all surprised given Microsoft's past behaviour.

And what past behavior is that? A stupid campaign against their competitor?

When have they ever exploited someone's death to promote their products in the past? Oh wait they haven't.

It's the same company, the same policies, the same hypocrisy, the same culture of tastelessness. Whether it's in the US or Korea, it's the same company. They'll go to any lengths to promote their products, as this incident illustrates. It disgusts me.

:rolleyes:

Max Norris said,

Exactly.. there's a big difference between an official campaign from Redmond versus an act of dumbassery by an employee in another country. (Which has already posted an apology, if anyone actually cares.) Bad taste, sure, I'd be surprised if someone isn't losing their job. But yea, let's make it look like Microsoft HQ did this, just because it's MS and it's good for fueling more rhetoric.

It's hard to believe people on here are actually defending a company for doing this. Ultimately, the responsibility lies with Microsoft. You can make excuses all you want about rogue employees, but as theyarecomingforyou said, Microsoft has a history of tasteless campaigns like Scroogled. Clearly this is the culture inside Microsoft.

simplezz said,

It's hard to believe people on here are actually defending a company for doing this.

No, I'm simply pointing out that there's a difference between what an employee says without thinking (or even approval) versus an official statement from the company. Huge but simple difference that anyone should be able to pick up. Well unless you're feeding an agenda anyway. If this came out of Redmond, then yea, I'd be pretty cheesed off about it too. But, basic comprehension for the win.

This is hardly even the first time, there's a lot of companies that have had similar incidents... those were all endorsed by their company too?

How about when Linus Torvalds suggests certain people in the ARM SoC should die painfully, have their brake lines cut and their coffee poisoned. Is this an official stance on the Linux community?

I didn't think so. But hey, let's make a special exception just for big evil Microsoft.

simplezz said,

It's hard to believe people on here are actually defending a company for doing this. Ultimately, the responsibility lies with Microsoft. You can make excuses all you want about rogue employees, but as theyarecomingforyou said, Microsoft has a history of tasteless campaigns like Scroogled. Clearly this is the culture inside Microsoft.

Scroogled is not a tasteless campaign. It was a STUPID campaign. The two words have very different meanings. It's also sad how you take one stupid campaign and pretend like it describes the entire history of MS :rolleyes:

If Scroogled was tasteless then I guess every company is tasteless too right? Because Samsung constantly makes fun of Apple and people who use Apple products. Apple used to make fun of MS and people who used MS products. Etc etc etc.

Tomorrow if Samsung said something stupid would you go "Oh look Samsung has had a history of tasteless campaigns"? No you probably won't because you're just another hypocritical fanboy.

Max Norris said,

No, I'm simply pointing out that there's a difference between what an employee says without thinking (or even approval) versus an official statement from the company. Huge but simple difference that anyone should be able to pick up. Well unless you're feeding an agenda anyway. If this came out of Redmond, then yea, I'd be pretty cheesed off about it too. But, basic comprehension for the win.

This is hardly even the first time, there's a lot of companies that have had similar incidents... those were all endorsed by their company too?

How about when Linus Torvalds suggests certain people in the ARM SoC should die painfully, have their brake lines cut and their coffee poisoned. Is this an official stance on the Linux community?

I didn't think so. But hey, let's make a special exception just for big evil Microsoft.

What you're saying doesn't make a whole lot of sense... Everyone at Microsoft is an employee of Microsoft... An employee is always acting as the company when working for the company.... There is no "if it comes from Redmond" or whatever arbitrary distinction you're hoping to carve out.

This is why if you walked into the local Best Buy to buy a phone and the employee thought it would be cool to piss on you instead of assisting you Best Buy would be held liable for his actions. Even though Best Buy corporate doesn't have a policy in place regarding this behavior. That is irrelevant. While he was on the clock he was a representative for the company.

Also, Linus Torvalds doesn't speak for the Linux Community because the Linux Community isn't a company that he is an employee of...

LogicalApex said,
What you're saying doesn't make a whole lot of sense... Everyone at Microsoft is an employee of Microsoft... An employee is always acting as the company when working for the company.... There is no "if it comes from Redmond" or whatever arbitrary distinction you're hoping to carve out.

Think about it a little bit.. it's not hard. Yes, that was an employee, and yes, that person deserves to get the axe. But the FUD slingers here are making it out like that person was explicitly told by the Microsoft upper management to post the thing in the first place. How about when an employee of IAC suggested that you'll get AIDS if you went to Africa? KitchenAid and Obama's grandmother? Is that the official stance of the company as a whole? No, stupidity on an employee's part, plain and simple. If we were to boycott every company that had an employee do something wrong/offensive, we'd still be living in caves. But Neowin users tend to throw common sense out the window when jumping on the hate bandwagon.

LogicalApex said,
Also, Linus Torvalds doesn't speak for the Linux Community because the Linux Community isn't a company that he is an employee of...

It's just an example, I know how the "community" works. But since he's "the man" when it comes to the operating system, the example still stands. Makes the community look rather childish. (And he's not the only one. Again, just an example.)

Max Norris said,

Think about it a little bit.. it's not hard. Yes, that was an employee, and yes, that person deserves to get the axe. But the FUD slingers here are making it out like that person was explicitly told by the Microsoft upper management to post the thing in the first place. How about when an employee of IAC suggested that you'll get AIDS if you went to Africa? KitchenAid and Obama's grandmother? Is that the official stance of the company as a whole? No, stupidity on an employee's part, plain and simple. If we were to boycott every company that had an employee do something wrong/offensive, we'd still be living in caves. But Neowin users tend to throw common sense out the window when jumping on the hate bandwagon.

There is a reason why an employee's actions while working for a company are considered to be done on the behalf of the company - no matter how bizarre. This isn't just "random people on Neowin" or something like that... This is a fundamental legal doctrine as well...

http://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/respondeat_superior
Latin Translation: "Let the Master Speak" Employers are considered Masters and Employees Servants to that Master.

It isn't my job to figure out what Microsoft "in Redmond" did and didn't approve and sanction. That is useless conjecture. Microsoft is responsible for this as this was done by Microsoft.

LogicalApex said,
There is a reason why an employee's actions while working for a company are considered to be done on the behalf of the company - no matter how bizarre. This isn't just "random people on Neowin" or something like that... This is a fundamental legal doctrine as well...

That's fine if we're discussing law or if you were planning on suing them. (Never mind what was said was tasteless... but not illegal.) We're talking about consumer's perceptions of what a company may or may not have done versus the stupid act of an employee who said something without the "blessing" of the company as a whole, and blowing said perception out of proportion to suit an anti-Microsoft agenda while completely disregarding all other instances where the same sort of thing happened.

Max Norris said,

That's fine if we're discussing law or if you were planning on suing them. (Never mind what was said was tasteless... but not illegal.) We're talking about consumer's perceptions of what a company may or may not have done versus the stupid act of an employee who said something without the "blessing" of the company as a whole, and blowing said perception out of proportion to suit an anti-Microsoft agenda while completely disregarding all other instances where the same sort of thing happened.

I'm not sure where you're going with this... If you write off "bad actions" (however you define them) by a company as the "work of a rogue employee" you'll never be able to hold a company accountable for anything. After all, everyone in the company from the CEO down are all employees capable of acting "rogue" at any given time.

Respondeat Superior solves this question and simply makes the company responsible for the actions of its employees.

Max Norris said,

No, I'm simply pointing out that there's a difference between what an employee says without thinking (or even approval) versus an official statement from the company. Huge but simple difference that anyone should be able to pick up. Well unless you're feeding an agenda anyway. If this came out of Redmond, then yea, I'd be pretty cheesed off about it too. But, basic comprehension for the win.

This is hardly even the first time, there's a lot of companies that have had similar incidents... those were all endorsed by their company too?

How about when Linus Torvalds suggests certain people in the ARM SoC should die painfully, have their brake lines cut and their coffee poisoned. Is this an official stance on the Linux community?

I didn't think so. But hey, let's make a special exception just for big evil Microsoft.

It almost definitely was approved because i don't think a random employee has the authority to go ahead and extend promotions, someone higher up/official must have approved this.

I don't understand your need to defend Microsoft here. Any employee of Microsoft is a representative of their company, in fact, any employee of any company is a representative of that company, either way, it is not the consumers job to make this distinction, it came from Microsoft, end of.

Uplift said,
It almost definitely was approved because i don't think a random employee has the authority to go ahead and extend promotions, someone higher up/official must have approved this.

Ok.. so you're saying it's always with approval from higher ups yes? So when KitchenAid made a joke about Obama's grandmother dying, that was with their blessing. Taco Bell employee posts a shot of himself pissing on their food.. manager must have approved that too? Toronto Fire Department must approve their people treating women like dirt too then? List goes on and on. But lets not let that get in the way of a good anti-Microsoft rant.

Uplift said,
I don't understand your need to defend Microsoft here.

I'm defending people using their common sense when reading this sort of thing versus the kneejerk "derp Microsoft" reaction which has been running rampant here of late. There sheer lack of thought that some people use before posting is appalling.

Max Norris said,

Think about it a little bit.. it's not hard. Yes, that was an employee, and yes, that person deserves to get the axe. But the FUD slingers here are making it out like that person was explicitly told by the Microsoft upper management to post the thing in the first place. How about when an employee of IAC suggested that you'll get AIDS if you went to Africa? KitchenAid and Obama's grandmother? Is that the official stance of the company as a whole? No, stupidity on an employee's part, plain and simple. If we were to boycott every company that had an employee do something wrong/offensive, we'd still be living in caves. But Neowin users tend to throw common sense out the window when jumping on the hate bandwagon.


It's just an example, I know how the "community" works. But since he's "the man" when it comes to the operating system, the example still stands. Makes the community look rather childish. (And he's not the only one. Again, just an example.)


I know it's not the same thing but following his "logic" we can we now blame ALL of Islam for the ######## that crashed planes into the WTC, Pentagon? Effing Stupid.

simplezz said,

It suggests there's a culture in Microsoft that'll do anything to trash the competition or exploit loss of life to further their agenda of product promotion. I'm not at all surprised given Microsoft's past behaviour. How you can try and defend their actions beggars belief.


It's the same company, the same policies, the same hypocrisy, the same culture of tastelessness. Whether it's in the US or Korea, it's the same company. They'll go to any lengths to promote their products, as this incident illustrates. It disgusts me.

Oh come on, Microsoft has been the least aggressive when it comes to going after competitors, especially with regard to Google and Apple.

Even the Scroogled campaign they didn't 'go after' Google, they just told people the crap Google freely admitted they did.

The "I'm a Mac, I'm a PC" crap, Microsoft just let it go and they could have made a lot of pushback just by demonstrating where Apple was lying. (Especially as the ads were pulled from the air in several non-US country for being untruthful.)

Also if you think Microsoft condones going after other companies, or that is the employee mindset, you have no clue how they operate. Almost every company out there still works with Microsoft even if they compete.

Even their biggest battles of Xbox vs PS or Windows vs Mac, Microsoft considers these companies 'partners' and has a healthy relationship with them.

For example: Sony sells a lot of Windows PCs, and employees would be fired if they jeopardized this even for the sake of XB.

LogicalApex said,
Respondeat Superior solves this question and simply makes the company responsible for the actions of its employees.
So what you're saying is it is right to blame the entire company and boycott it because of an employee's or a few employees' stupid actions? Like someone said above if we followed this to the letter we'd most likely have nothing left that we can patronize.

Romero said,
So what you're saying is it is right to blame the entire company and boycott it because of an employee's or a few employees' stupid actions? Like someone said above if we followed this to the letter we'd most likely have nothing left that we can patronize.

Is it right to hold Microsoft accountable for the actions of its employees? Yes. This is not only my opinion, as I pointed out, this is also the standard legal practice in the country that MS is headquartered in.

Is this serious enough to boycott Microsoft over? That isn't a decision for me to make for anyone other than myself. I'm not boycotting Microsoft over this, but I wanted to correct the assertion that Microsoft isn't responsible for the actions of its employees.