10 Cringe-Worthy Big Brands’ Social Media Fails

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Since the Internet began reigning supreme, considering social media advertising is a must for most brands. Twitter and Facebook campaigns have become mandatory parts of a well-thought product campaign, and when done right, it can significantly boost profits. But while some campaigns truly shine in originality and creativity, there are other, more unfortunate situations. Let’s take a look at some of the best (you could call them worst) big brand social media fails:

Starbucks1.   Starbucks Race Talk Met with Ridicule

Having open discussions about race may very well represent a desirable goal, Starbucks believes, especially when waiting in line for your coffee. But its most recent #RaceTogether campaign seems to be receiving more ridicule than expected, despite the company’s best intentions.

People on Twitter soon began openly discussing Starbucks’ initiative, underlining the value of a meaningful conversation about race with “hipster baristas” and even mentioning fair trade.

And with Tweets like: “Starbucks’ #RaceTogether invites customers to talk about race. Uses only white hands in related photos,” it’s fair to assume that Starbucks’ campaign didn’t hit the right audiences.


2.   #McDStories

Arguably one of the worst social media ideas to date was McDonald’s #McDstories Twitter campaign, although no one could have truly foreseen the magnitude of this social media disaster. Instead of inspiring heart-warming Happy Meal stories and lovely experiences while visiting the famous Golden Arches, the campaign went terribly wrong.

Soon enough, the #McDStories turned into what seemed to be #McDHorrorStories and visitors of the famous fast-food restaurant began sharing their sometimes horrific experiences.

From former workers Tweeting “Dude, I used to work at McDonald’s. The #McDStories I could tell would raise your hair” to downright vitriolic hatred, Twitter was bringing the worst out of every McDonald’s visit.

Food poisoning stories, tooth chipping after McSomethings, fingernails found in the food, weight loss, the fast food chain soon found its hashtag high jacked. Soon enough, McDonald’s social media director decided that the campaign had received such negativity that a change in course was mandated.

The campaign was pulled in a matter of hours as they soon came to realize that such crowd-based campaigns are particularly difficult to handle

KFC3.   #IatetheBones

Hashtag high jacking is something fairly common nowadays, and McDonald’s wasn’t the only fast food to witness a social media debacle. KFC’s #IatetheBones soon became a #McDStories worthy contender after the tagline received much unwanted attention.

Instead of securing KFC’s new position as a boneless chicken brand, the tagline was associated with dead bodies and sexual innuendos. The $50 million budget campaign had been expected to inspire KFC customers to share videos and comments, however, it accomplished the opposite. People began sharing funny memes of people choking on chicken bones, of Hannibal Lecter and animal rights videos.

domino's pizza4.   Domino’s Pizza Close to Public Relations Crisis

While non-intentional, Domino’s Pizza was also close to a social media disaster after a YouTube video that should have never existed. One of the restaurant’s employees uploaded a video to the famous platform showcasing his sandwich-making abilities.

The sandwiches being prepared in the video had been sandwiches prepared for customer deliveries and the employee not only inserted ingredients up his nose, but also added key ingredients (such as nasal mucus) to the delicious product. Live commentary was also featured, as a second Domino’s employee provided running commentary. Needless to say, the video caused widespread social media outrage.

benadryl pollen map5.   PolenHotspot Mayhem

Hay fever season seemed like the perfect time to intensify one’s content marketing efforts, and Benadryl did just that by providing its customers with an interactive pollen count map. Basically, anyone was free to contribute with pollen hotspots and complete Benadryl’s map.

However clever the idea may sound (creating a tool that would allow allergy sufferers to avoid high-pollen environments), the campaign soon backfired as Benadryl’s audience immediately realized that the map could be used to draw rude pictures or spell out curse words.

Tesco6.   Tesco’s “Hit the hay” Tweet

Tesco, the UK supermarket giant, has had its share of ups and downs, and 2013 seemed to be particularly challenging. While its social media team was hard at work preparing for scheduled tweets and campaigns, food investigators discovered traces of horse meat in Tesco’s Everyday Value Burgers.

Consequently, the supermarket giant was forced to take the product off of its shelves. Ironically enough, the social media team was completely unaware of the recent events and went on with the prescheduled tweet that included the phrase “hit the hay”.

Snickers tweets7.   When Paying for Celebrity Endorsements Doesn’t Pay Off

We all enjoy the occasional chocolate bar and when athletes or celebrities take pictures of themselves doing so, it may seem inconspicuous enough. But in 2012, it seemed that Snickers went a bit too far after it decided to financially reward celebrities for posting pictures of themselves eating their chocolate bars.

Manchester United’s Rio Ferdinand, Ian Botham and Amir Khan were only some of the celebrities who agreed to tweet pictures of themselves enjoying Snickers chocolate bars. Deceptive advertising is harshly criticized, and celebrities have to make it crystal clear that they are endorsing specific products.

The Office of Fair Trading soon launched an investigation into the matter, and while nothing illegal was discovered, the sheer embarrassment of the situation may have been detrimental to Snickers’image.

toyota spamming twitter8.   Twitter Suspends Spammers, Even Toyota

For the 2012 Super Bowl, Toyota prepared an ad campaign where people had the chance of winning a Camry. All anyone needed to do was to tweet #camryeffect during this ad campaign. What Toyota didn’t expect was what followed.

After tweeting the suggested hashtag, Toyota’s special CamryEffect accounts would begin to reply to tweets with information about the company’s new promotion.

The only issue: the massive amounts of messages being sent had Toyota’s tweets categorized as spam and its accounts suspended. Certainly not the desired outcome.

United-Breaks-Guitars9.   United Breaks Guitars

Having singers and songwriters compose songs about your company may seem like a dream come true, but in the case of United Airlines, it was far from it. Dave Carroll, a member of the Sons of Maxwell, had used United Airlines to travel to Nebraska and in the process, had his $3,500 Taylor guitar destroyed by baggage handlers.

In the gruesome nine months that followed, Dave attempted to receive compensation for the loss of his instrument. The company denied him any reimbursement,so Dave promised the airline to compose and produce three songs about the horrible experience he had gone through because of United.

In the end, his first song, United Breaks Guitars racked up a massive 14.8 million views.

wendy's apostrophe situation10.   The Devil’s in the Details-Or the Apostrophe

Even with massive fast-food chains with hundreds of thousands of followers, mistakes can be made. One of Wendy’s campaigns served as a marvelous example of how proofreading can make or break a perfectly good idea.

Wendy’s customers were encouraged to take pictures of their food and tweet the photo @Wendy’s. But here’s the gist: the company’s real Twitter account does NOT have an apostrophe. So when clicking on “@Wendy’s”, unsuspecting visitors would be brought to this very sweet Canadian woman’s Twitter page.

Whether Wendy was asked to offer some much-needed help or support Wendy’s in a somewhat minor (but in actuality major) mistake, one thing is clear.Wendy’s immediately took action and found a solution while also admitting that “apostrophes are out to kill this week.”

So if there is any lesson to be learned from such social media campaigns is that careful planning must go into any slightly questionable endeavor, lest your company find itself in a media firestorm it’s unprepared for.
Image Source: 1 , 2 , 3 , 4 , 5 , 6 , 7 , 8 , 9 , 10

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