Since the birth of social media, brands have been quick to jump on the bandwagon and have a crack at creating their own unique approach to connecting with their fans and potential customers. From day one it’s been a two-way channel: with traditional marketing approaches being more of a broadcast medium, brands have had to adapt to fans being able to individually communicate their personal opinion in a public arena. Social media has come a long way since its creation and 2013 saw some of the biggest social media fails to date from brands across the globe. Here are a few of my favorites...
Pepsi in Sweden released a series of Facebook Ads including a voodoo doll of competitor Portugal's megastar Cristiano Ronaldo being abused by pins, and even tied to train tracks. Pepsi were forced to promptly remove the ads and apologise, after an anti-Pepsi Facebook group was formed with over 100k fans in one day.
A cooking site Epicurious thought they could capitalise on the Boston bombing to promote their recipes on Twitter… “In honor of Boston and New England, may we suggest: Whole-grain cranberry scones!” Brands have made bad-taste jokes on Twitter before, but this raised the bar
Home Depot were in hot water this year, and accused of being racist after tweeting a photo of two African Americans and someone in a monkey costume playing the drums. The comment was “Which drummer is not like the others?” The Tweet was deleted, they were forced to apologise and repercussions included the firing of Home Depot’s social agency.
A bit closer to home, this year The Highlanders rugby team launched a campaign on Facebook promoting a “high-profile” assignment for the franchise. This built up a lot of hype and suspense in the social realm, leaving many supporters with a sour taste in their mouths after last season's disappointing result. It got the attention of many notable social sports columnists including Veitchy on Sport and 3 News Sport. They announced the assignment to be assistant coach Tony Brown – two time provincial rugby coach, and an absolute anti-climax. Facebook fans were furious, filling the franchise’s page with hundreds of negative comments.
It’s now common practice for brands to have a social media strategy as part of their overall marketing effort. I enjoy seeing brands pushing the boundaries with creative campaigns and competitions in social media, but there will always be some that miss the mark, as we’ve seen this year. We know social media can be great for virality and engagement, but if not done correctly it can be a PR disaster.