The Playmobil Queen Elizabeth Tweet Proves That Letting Brands Use Twitter Was a Mistake

playmobil queen elizabeth ii tweet
Courtesy of Playmobil

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The news of Queen Elizabeth’s death has reverberated worldwide. LIke the death of Princess Diana or Michael Jackson, it’s the kind of news event that seems to bring the entire world to a standstill.

As an American with no emotional connection to the House of Windsor, I’ve been somewhat nonplussed by the intense reactions, which have ranged from macabre humor to genuine expressions of grief. It feels like everyone but me is having some type of reaction.

During these types of major news events, brands often feel pressure to respond on social media, to mixed results.

Public service announcement:

Your brand does not need to react to the news, no matter how monumental. And I think this strangely disturbing memorial post from toymaker Playmobil is the perfect demonstration of this principle.

This cursed photo was posted by the Playmobil brand Twitter account on September 8 after news of the monarch’s passing was announced. The photo, of a Playmobil figure modeled after Queen Elizabeth II, looks absolutely nothing like the Queen, and there’s something haunting about the eyes and claw-like hands. It’s also completely unnecessary. We believe we’ve identified the exact Playmobil figure in the picture, the Playmobil 70026 Series 15 Queen Elizabeth Monarch With Hat and Flowers, which looks even more offputting in full color than it does in black and white, somehow.

You might be wondering, is Playmobil a British brand? Nope. It’s actually a German company

Of course, Playmobil isn’t the only brand paying tribute to the queen via Twitter.

Buzzfeed has an entire guide to the most surprising brands tweeting about her death. Right now, the entire internet is flooded with memes and jokes making light of the event, and Playmobil’s tweet at least has the advantage of being offered in good faith.

These questionable social media posts make me wonder:

Do we need our brands to grieve with us? Was giving brands access to Twitter a terrible mistake? Should we all just log off?

I’m reminded of a line from the comedian Bo Burnham’s magnum opus Inside, an emotional one-man digital show filmed during the pandemic. In the song “That Funny Feeling,” the comedian talks about that confused feeling you might experience when tweets like this come across your feed:

The surgeon general’s pop-up shop, Robert Iger’s faceDiscount Etsy agitprop, Bugles’ take on raceFemale Colonel Sanders, easy answers, civil warThe whole world at your fingertips, the ocean at your door
The live-action Lion King, the Pepsi Halftime ShowTwenty-thousand years of this, seven more to goCarpool Karaoke, Steve Aoki, Logan PaulA gift shop at the gun range, a mass shooting at the mall
There it is again, that funny feeling