Big business brings out Bowie to clumsily cash in on tragedy

LET'S take a welcome break from those parliamentary spin doctors and focus on a different kind of politics this week - the politics of cashing in.

As a rule of thumb, serious, respectful tact is required if you want to use a death or tragedy to flog your product.

There is a right way and a wrong way to do it.

A simple picture with an "RIP - we will miss you" uploaded to social media might get you a bunch of shares and market coverage you would otherwise have missed.

Further than that, businesses have to be dang clever if they want to execute their morbid marketing plan without looking like a mob of vultures* circling overhead.

David Bowie has been dead less than a week, causing a global outpouring of grief and an annoying saturation of Bowie-related posts on social media.

It seemed to become a "who's the biggest fan" competition (on my feeds anyway) and a fairly perverse post-mortem attempt at attaining ultimate rock 'n' roll credentials.

The creators of the world's dorkiest footwear got on the Bowie bandwagon and took it to another level.

The company behind Crocs - the polyurethane pseudo-sandals favoured by those who have given up on attracting a sexual partner - needs a new marketing manager. In a hastily removed Twitter post, the @Crocs account posted a photo of an all-white, synthetic rubber moccasin superimposed with the iconic red lightning bolt that adorned Ziggy Stardust's face.

"Your magic will be missed, but your inspiration lives on forever. #DavidBowie," the post read.

No, no, no. The post itself would have been fine with a picture of the creative genius who just died. But blatantly co-opt Bowie's brand to peddle your own wares and I will assume you are a scavenger, and I will buy a pair of $2 thongs from Woolies.

There must be something weird happening in the shoe business.

British footwear retailer Office Shoes put up the lyrics of 1983 hit Let's Dance to move some units.

"Put on your red shoes and dance the blues," it read while I choked on my morning coffee.

UK's Celebrity Big Brother took the cake, breaking the news of Bowie's death to his former wife Angie and airing the footage of her reaction, and using it in advertising.

There are plenty of other examples of varying cringeworthiness, from cafes putting on special Bowie menus (on the lesser end of the spectrum) to eBay sellers slapping low-quality Ziggy stickers on their products.

These things happen, I suppose, so rather than rail against the tide I should just embrace it.

Here's a free marketing tip. After the next tsunami, towel companies should rush to Facebook with a heartfelt message: "Our thoughts are with the families of the victims. Whenever you cop a good drenching, try out our super-absorbent terrycloth made of all-natural fibres!"

Or just leave it alone, you cackle of hyenas.

* The collective noun for vultures is apparently a "venue", by the way. But a group of circling vultures is called a "kettle".

Strange Politics is a satirical opinion column. Follow Chris Calcino on Twitter: @ChrisCalcino