Social Media Marketing Failures (and the Lessons to be learned)

Social media marketing isn’t exactly easy for many, and that’s especially true for startups and traditional companies who are not savvy in the first place. Here are a few examples of social media marketing fails that you don’t want to emulate!

  1. United Airlines flight. This is perhaps the most notorious failure of them all, and it deserves to be mentioned first. UA employees were given priority on one of their flights and so they chose to bounce off passengers. One of the passengers was randomly chosen but he declined. This led to security officers violently dragging off the bloodied passenger. What made this look really bad for UA is that this incident was captured on video and then shared on social media.

Needless to say, the UA brands’ reputation was damaged, but what made things worse was the response of the UA CEO. He released a statement blaming the victim, and praising the security officers. Regardless of his personal opinion he did nothing to repair the damage caused to their reputation.

  1. Coca Cola uses an old Russian map. History and geography aren’t dry and boring subjects in places like Russia, especially World War II history. So when Coca Cola made the error of using an outdated Russian map in a tweet that didn’t include a place called Kaliningrad, many Americans thought it wasn’t a big deal. But people in Russia didn’t appreciate the oversight, as the territory was annexed after WWII (which led to about 20 million Russian deaths). The result was posted photos of Russians pouring Coke into toilets, with the hashtag #BanCocaCola. The lesson here is simple—be sure facts are accurate before posting.

  2. Pepsi and Black Lives Matter. Coca Cola’s rival Pepsi dropped the ball too, when they featured an ad with Kendall Jenner using protests against police brutality as a way to market their brand and sell more soda. This was considered crass by many, and lots of people thought it undermined the Black Lives Matter Movement. At least Pepsi knew enough to withdraw the ad right away while issuing an immediate apology. However, mixing racial politics and soda selling isn’t really a good idea.

  3. Adidas misremembers the Boston Marathon. Nowadays, you need to think about how your social media messages may evoke tragic memories while you attempt to make a joke. That’s what happened when Adidas tweeted a message saying “Congrats, you survived the Boston Marathon. That happened right after the 2017 race, and it turned out many people still remember the tragic 2013 bombing and didn’t take to this post very well.

  4. Sometimes products in themselves can be politically incorrect. When that’s the case, you don’t really want to double down and call attention to how wrong you are. Consider Seoul Secret, which is a Korean brand which tried to market its skin-whitening on social media. The product was already rather dubious, but it didn’t really help when the company tried to promote those products with the insensitive slogan “White makes you win.” They tweeted this slogan and released a video featuring a fair-skinned actress talking about how her white skin led to her success. In today’s world, that’s not exactly a good idea.

  5. MTV Australia and their need for English subtitles. Sometimes sophomoric humor isn’t really funny and can be downright offensive. That’s what happened when MTV Australia tweeted “Where are the English subtitles?” during the Golden Globes telecast and Hispanic actresses Eva Longoria and America Ferrera were on stage.

What other social media fails can you recall?

 

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