Mad Mex, an Australian chain of more than 30 Mexican restaurants, was forced to apologise after a picture they posted on Facebook was accused of being racist and offensive.

The Facebook page posted a Photoshopped version of the cover artwork of Justin Beiber’s single One Time, calling it the ‘Mexican edition’. The Canadian popstar’s head was replaced with an image of what we can only presume was meant to be a person of Mexican origin – but was instead Filipino boxer Manny Pacquiao.

Within minutes the post was inundated with complaints from irate users. They pointed out, quite rightly, that not only was Pacquiao not Mexican, but that the joke was offensive and racist.

According to one user wrote ”15 minutes of research on Google for a Mexican would have given you better results – having a Filipino trying to pass for Mexican is just wrong, some might even consider an insult.”

While another wrote ”This casual racism makes me feel uncomfortable.”

Initially, Mad Mex responded to the criticism on Facebook but opted not to delete the offensive picture, writing: ”We apologise if we have caused offense with this post, we didn’t ever intend it to be racist. We have learnt a valuable lesson in doing our research prior to posting.”

However, in what might be considered a strange move, a representative from Mad Mex’s PR agency, Liquid Ideas, later told News Ltd the post had been removed – with a comment that wouldn’t exactly have improved my mood!

”They were managing their Facebook page internally, but when the post came to our attention we stepped in,” she said.

More of a ‘pushed under the bus’ sentiment than the ‘we’ve got your back’ they might have intended.

What does good look like?

Whether your marketing comms are online or through more traditional channels – it’s best to stay away from topics that will easily cause offence when implemented badly; and race and ethnicity is one such topic.

Put simply, do your research. The concept of the post was already on very dubious ground with changing someone’s skin colour (and isn’t one I’d have gone with) – but to change the picture to a famous person of the wrong nationality only made it worse. As one commenter put it – ”I hope your burritos are better than your research”.

Lastly, apologise quickly and sincerely. When Shutterfly made an email segmentation mistake, they were fast, genuine and owned up to the mistake. Don’t be afraid to admit you made a mistake (if that’s what happened) – and make sure the response is honest, factual and responds to the issue.

Ensure in all your communications on the subject that you show respect, take the issue seriously and say something meaningful.

This normally includes removing the offensive post, which Mad Mex initially failed to do.

Australian Mexican restaurant chain in Filipino Beiber row | eBlooper | Bad Marketing