The onset of social media has surely revolutionized the digital marketing strategies of corporations. The ability to reach millions of target customers in a short span of time can make even the most sluggish of campaigns stand out. But at the same time, it can also be a bane for peeps who don’t know how to handle the never sleeping Internet space. Watch out for some of the worst social media fails by corporations in recent times:
1) Warner Brothers Gets Caught Paying Celebrities For Marketing
We all know that this is not the first time a brand used celebrities to sell products, and it is far from being illegal. But what if the users don’t realize that it is an advert?
On July 11, 2016, the Federal Trade Commission blamed the Warner Brothers studio over a stealth marketing campaign where they imposed opinions on users via Youtube influencers like PewDiePie.
The paid campaign was used to hype the game, Middle Earth : Shadow Of Mordor using subtle boxes to pack the marketing disclosures, which were meant to be overlooked by viewers. Although the studio got away with no fines and some imposed conditions, the story is already going viral soon and will hamper the company’s PR image.
2) Microsoft’s Sociopath Twitter Bot
In March 2016, Microsoft had an innovative idea to launch a Twitter AI bot that was supposed to take over the Twitterverse with automated tweets. The bot, named Tay, learned from other users around the world to increase its knowledge database. What followed was a complete disaster. Trolls on the website coupled with a flawed human interaction marathon turned Tay into a racist entity within 24 hours. Microsoft had to respond quickly by deleting all the tweets and putting the project on hold for the time being.
If a basic AI can go from “Humans are super cool” to ‘Heil Hitler’ in less than a day, it surely makes us wonder about the future of Artificial Intelligence and automation.
Oh and apparently, it supports Trump.
3) Coca-Cola Lands In Political Controversy
Imagine Coca-Cola wishing Indians a happy new year on social media by posting a map of the country along with a message. Sounds innocent, right? But what if they made the mistake of omitting Kashmir from the map? That is exactly what happened in Russia this year which left the public furious. A controversial picture was shared by the company on Russia’s social media platform VK. The problem was that the map had excluded Kaliningrad, the disputed Kuril Islands, as well as the Ukrainian – Russia contested territory of Crimea.
And that is not all. Instead of apologizing for the image and pulling it down, Coca-Cola tried to amend their mistake by uploading an updated version of the map with all the three territories in place. This time, it fueled outrage in Ukraine over the issue of Crimea, with customers launching outrages against the company with the hashtag #BanCocaCola.
4) Seoul Secret Goes Racist
In the age where companies in the beauty industry are constantly looking for ways to put across subtle messages in advertisements that do not invoke negative emotions in customers, Seoul Secret decided to completely rub it in their face. Literally.
Their recent advert in January took racism to a whole new level. They released their ad among all social media platforms, featuring popular actress and singer Chris Horwang telling viewers about her career growth, and attributing all of her success to her white skin. The video then boldly goes on to show a dark skinned digitized version of Horwang, depressed and worried about her skin colour.
Twitterverse was the first to respond with backlashes from users all around the world. This forced the company to issue the following official apology and to scrap the whole campaign altogether – “We would like to express a heartfelt apology and thank you for all the comments. Currently, we have removed the video clip, related advertisements, and other planned materials to show our responsibility in this incident.”
Watch the controversial advert below:
5) Amazon Gets Trolled By Zomato
When you ever decide to take on someone on social media, make sure you are the one who has the witty comebacks. Brands engage with each other all the time via their social accounts these days and the results are often hilarious. But sometimes things do go out of hand. When Zomato went through a series of changes in their logo design, Amazon tried to be smart and took the case on Twitter in April 2015.
The incident has infamously come to be known as ‘the time when Zomato trolled Amazon’. The whole thing could have been easily avoided had Amazon not tried to take on another company’s social media image in the first place.
6) ScoopWhoop And Lenskart Use Earthquake As A Marketing Opportunity
When the lethal earthquake hit Nepal and parts of India in April 2015, some startups made the massive mistake of pinning it as a marketing opportunity. ScoopWhoop boldly published an article “15 Thoughts That Went Through Everyone’s Mind When The Earthquake Happened”. It was clear that they wanted to cash in on the social media buzz about the disaster, with a more-than-average number of article hits. But as any sensible person would expect, it caused a huge uproar against the company which forced it to delete the article and social media posts altogether and also issue an official apology.
Even LensKart erred in sending this text message to its entire user base. The last thing you want to do in the time of calamities is to come across a corporation which exists solely to mint money, whatever the situation might be.
7) Budweiser Promotes Date Rape
“The perfect beer for removing ‘No’ from your vocabulary for the night”, “#UpForWhatever” and “The perfect beer for whatever happens”.
If you are naive enough to print that on millions of Bud Light beer bottles, your campaign is surely going to go down the drain (along with your beer).
Hashtags like #NoMeansNo surfaced in April 2015 against the advertising stunt in no time after people took offence at Budweiser’s suggestion about getting loose for the night and possibly taking advantage of someone. Although the concept was surely trying to hint at having fun with friends after a long week’s work, the way it came across suggested lack of common sense and was definitely not entertained the way it was intended to be.
8) ESPN Employee Posts Porn Link
Well, this is an embarrassing tale. In January 2015, college football analyst Gerry Hamilton was trying to post a tweet about one of the latest recruits in the game when he made a massive blunder and included a porn website link, instead of directing users to the player’s profile. Although Gerry, who had 15000 followers at the time, pulled down the tweet immediately, it had already done its damage. It made ESPN look in really bad light since it could be easily deduced that Gerry had objectionable tabs opened on his browser, ‘possibly while he was at work’.
Not smooth at all.
Gerry and ESPN handled it in the best possible way by not commenting on the story at all and letting the buzz simmer down in its own time.
Key Marketing Lessons Learned
- Make sure you cover all the legal loopholes before you take decisions to market your products. The last thing you want is a notice from the government regarding non-compliance of regulations.
- Automation in social media marketing is good. It can save you a lot of time and resources on the way. But launching immature projects (like AI bots) without validating their potential effect can cause more harm than good.
- Be sure to understand all about the local demography and the region while running targeted campaigns. You don’t want lack of basic research to be the reason of your campaign’s failure.
- Be subtle in your advertising strategies. There is always a better way to send messages to the viewers. Try to connect with them via innovative stories instead of directly jumping to the bullet points of your marketing campaign.
- Cashing in on the latest news is a good strategy to get more eyes on your product. But be sensible enough to differentiate between the strategies that would work and the ones that would backfire instead.
- Get a lot of insight from peers and upper management before working through a marketing concept. Think from the point of view of the customer and make sure your message or tagline has no hidden meaning other than the message you intend to convey.
- If you are an established employee of a reputed company, your social media accounts will be in the limelight at all times. Always be diligent while posting stuff (especially links, pun intended).
General Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are solely of the author.
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