Never forget (to buy Coca-Cola)

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Back to school, autumnal leaves, pumpkin spice — these are all tropes a brand may use to market its products in September. 

This month, however, Coca-Cola went outside the rubric and used Sept. 11, the tragic day in history when more than 3,000 people were killed by terrorists, to hawk soda.

Twitter user Shawn snapped a photo of the set-up at a Florida Wal-Mart, which the Orlando Weekly confirmed was on display in a store in Panama City. 

As the picture depicts, black boxes of Coke Zero have been arranged in two tall stacks, made to resemble the fallen twin towers. Red, grey and blue boxes of other Coke products are organized as an American flag-like backdrop for the towers. A banner that reads "we will never forget" hangs above the display, and features both Wal-Mart and Coke's logo. 

The marketing is troublesome for many reasons, including the fact that two enormous brands gave thumbs up to the idea in the first place. Charles Crowson, a Wal-Mart spokesperson, told Orlando Weekly that the display concept was approved by both Coke and Wal-Mart. 

It's puzzling to imagine that not one person on either team considered potential backlash to the stacked boxes: What would it look like when customers began removing the black boxes from the display to put them in their carts? (It would look like the towers were falling.) 

Is it wise to construct a model of buildings that represent a traumatic time for many, out of products that have been scientifically proven to be harmful to human health? (No, it is not.) Does a brand really need to align a sale with such a catastrophic day in history? (No, it doesn't.) Is there a better way to promote soda sales? (Yes, almost anything else.)

The tasteless marketing ploy is reminiscent of other exploitative 9/11 advertisements in past years, including one from a Wisconsin golf course that offered a nine-hole round for the discounted price of $9.11 and a tweet from a tie company that asked for "2,296 retweets for the 2,296 people who lost their lives 13 years ago today."

Moving forward, companies should refer to the flowchart below when deciding how to market a product:

Neither Wal-Mart nor Coke immediately responded to Mic's request for comment.