Microsoft forced to apologise after download Amy Winehouse tweet

Microsoft has shot itself in the foot (again) on Twitter, by rushing to offer Amy Winehouse fans the chance to download her music from Microsoft as they mourn her passing.

The @tweetbox360 Twitter account, which is run by the Microsoft UK PR team, tweeted this morning: “Remember Amy Winehouse by downloading the ground-breaking ‘Back to Black’ over at Zune”.

The account has since been inundated with complaints. It has been accused of (among other things) of being opportunistic, of feeding on Amy Winehouse’s corpse, of appalling taste and of shocking marketing. Yes, one or two did ask if it had hired an intern to tweet.

One Twitter user Stuart Houghton saw his tweet retweeted more than 80 times alone, after he wrote: “Stay classy, Microsoft PR jackals RT @tweetbox360: Remember Amy Winehouse by downloading the ground-breaking ‘Back to Black’ over at Zune”.

In response Microsoft tweeted a couple of apologies: “Apologies to everyone if our earlier Amy Winehouse ‘download’ tweet seemed purely commercially motivated. Far from the case, we assure you. With Amy W’s passing, the world has lost a huge talent. Our thoughts are with Amy’s family and friends at this very sad time.”

However, these haven’t stopped the complaints coming in and have led to the account being accused to “backpedalling after making PR blunder”.

It isn’t the first time that Microsoft has been accused of of capitalising on human suffering to promote its brand. Bing launched the #SupportJapan campaign, in the wake of the Japanese tsunami that offered to donate $1 to Japanese earthquake victims each time their original post was retweeted.

Some tweeter did also point out that the Apple iTunes Store has since Winehouse died had her featured prominently on its homepage. Is that any different?

Apple isn’t the only one. Some tweeted a post on the Huffington Post that was running with the headline: “Amy Winehouse’s Untimely Death Is a Wake Up Call for Small Business Owners”.