Justin Bieber's visit last week to the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam has sparked a bit of a controversy online. The uproar started after Bieber wrote in the museum's guest book: "Truly inspiring to be able to come here. Anne was great girl. Hopefully she would have been a belieber."
The Anne Frank House, in an effort to capitalize on the groundswell of attention Bieber brings wherever he goes, posted Bieber's note on its official Facebook page. BBC correspondent Anne Holligan discovered the post and spread it throughout Twitter, according to The Daily Beast.
The reactions to Bieber's comments began to spread across the Web, ranging from comedians' tweets to expected outrage for trying to use a tragic figure to plug his brand.
From a brand-management perspective, using the well-known Holocaust victim's museum to not-so-subtly promote himself was bad form. And while the Anne Frank House wasn't up in arms about Bieber's remarks as some others were on social media, the incident serves as an example that brands need to be careful in the ways they choose to promote themselves.
“We think that what’s special is that a 19-year-old comes to the Anne Frank House and spends an hour visiting on a Friday night,” said the spokeswoman for the Anne Frank House, defending the pop star. “He could be doing other things in Amsterdam. He was very interested. That’s more important than the commotion that we’re now seeing.”
However, other brands/institutions may not be as forgiving. For communicators, the main takeaway isn't that every message has a chance of going viral (because that's probably only true for Bieber). The blowback to Bieber's comments shows a greater need to exercise caution when choosing which media vehicles you want to align with yourself or your brand.
Follow Bill Miltenberg: @bmiltenberg