Brand Campaigns That Failed on Social Media


No matter what kind of business you are running, social media platforms offer an effective way to promote it. It allows businesses to communicate and connect to a large group audience. However, building a strong online presence is not a cakewalk. 

Brands come up with creative campaigns and innovative social media strategies to reap the benefits of social media. Global social media ad spending is expected to reach $177 billion in 2022. 

However, not every campaign on social media has a success story to share. The idea of the campaign might sound awesome in the conference room but it may go terribly wrong when out in the public.

Regardless of big or small, international or local, product or service, brands make utter flop campaigns all the time. In the age of social media, mistakes are not easily forgotten. Whenever brands do a mistake, a lot of social media discussions happen over that. A misstep in the campaign planning and execution can lead to substantial financial loss and damage the reputation of the brand.  

In this blog, we have listed a few brand campaigns that failed on social media. Make sure you are not repeating the mistakes while you plan a campaign. 

Common Reasons Why Brand Campaigns Fail on Social Media

From blunder mistakes to genuine errors, several reasons contribute to the failure of social media campaigns. One of the basic mistakes is ignoring the importance of a strong campaign objective. When you are unclear about the objective, you might end up monitoring the wrong metrics.  

Another common reason for the failure of brand campaigns is failing to address the right audience. Many times, marketers fail to build a relevant audience base and choose the appropriate platform to run the campaign. The campaigns should be targeted at the right audience as well as the right target market. 

To make a social media campaign successful, it is important to integrate data. Sometimes people fail to make use of social media analytics tools while developing a campaign. Failing to understand what type of campaigns work or not knowing the customer expectations can lead to campaign failure. 

Developing a solid brand reputation takes time. People may get suspicious about brands that started a few days or months ago. Sometimes social media marketers hurry the campaigns leading to their failure. It needs time and patience to build a strong online presence, connect with the target group, and create an authentic brand. 

Not paying enough attention to the customers is a mistake in social media marketing. No matter how much effort you have put in, the campaign cannot be fruitful if marketers do not consider the audience seriously. It makes a real difference in campaign outcomes when you listen to the positive and negative comments of your customers. 

10 Examples of Brand Campaign Failures on Social Media

Many top companies have made campaign mistakes and had to execute damage control initiatives to come out of it. Let’s take a look at some of the social media fails of top companies and what went wrong with them. 

The Promotional Campaign of Burger King on Facebook 

Burger King, the US-based fast-food chain, launched the ‘Whopper Sacrifice’ campaign on Facebook in 2009. The campaign was called – ‘Whopper Sacrifice: You like your friends, but YOU LOVE THE WHOPPER’. 

The idea was this – anyone who would remove ten people from their friends’ list will get a coupon for a free whopper burger. It was rather an unsocial promotional campaign. It led to a lot of confusion among customers. 

Basically, the campaign stood against the core idea of the social media platform – connecting people. In fact, Facebook has to disable the campaign in 10 days citing privacy issues. The lesson is simple – never plan campaigns that promote unsocial behaviors on social media.

The ‘Would You Rather’ Ad on Snapchat 

The ad for the game ‘Would You Rather’ is yet another disturbing social media campaign that was launched on Snapchat. The ad asked the viewers if they would ‘Slap Rihanna’ or ‘Punch Chris Brown.’ 

Viewers could easily connect it to the domestic abuse issue which happened in 2009 between Rihanna and Chris Brown. Snapchat had to issue an apology after removing the ad. It teaches us the lesson there is a thin line between being funny and hurtful when you plan campaigns. 

Kenneth Kole’s Promotional Campaign on Twitter 

Kenneth Kole, the US-based urban clothing line, had launched a promotional campaign that used the Arab Spring revolution for drawing attention to its spring collection. The campaign which was launched on Twitter had made the brand take a few steps backward. 

People felt the brand was joking about the Arab Spring hence the campaign backfired. When you create campaigns, make sure it follows ethical practices. The promotional campaigns should never try to leverage any tragedies or grave situations.

Adidas Email Campaign About Boston Marathon Incident

Next on the list is the email campaign of Adidas which was targeted at the participants of the Boston Marathon of 2013. During the event, two pressure-cooker bombs exploded which led to the death of three people and wounded many. 

The email campaign had the subject line – ‘Congrats! You survived the Boston Marathon.’ The brand had to face severe backlash from the public for the insensitivity of the campaign.

Later the company had to apologize for the insensitive nature of the campaign. The bottom line is this – make sure the brand is sensitive to people’s emotions while launching campaigns. 

Dove’s Transformation Campaign on Facebook

Dove, the beauty brand, has a story to say about campaign failure. Though the company is known for its ‘Real Beauty Sketches’ and other successful campaigns, its recent post on Facebook was a disaster. 

In the ad, it is shown that a black woman gets transformed into white after using a body lotion from Dove. It gave the message that the women transform into an entirely different race after using a body lotion. This is in contrast with their overall brand message which celebrates real beauty.

Regardless of their ethnicity or race, people found the ad rather disturbing. The company released an apology later. 

Airbnb’s Floating World Campaign

Airbnb’s campaign called ‘Floating World’ was a failure because of its bad timing. It was launched in 2017. The campaign had an image of a floating home on the surface of the water. It carried a text saying – ‘Stay above water’ and ‘live the life aquatic with these floating homes.’ The campaign was launched when Hurricane Harvey caused catastrophic flooding in Houston.  

The United States Air Force Debate on Yanny/Laurel 

The Yanny/Laurel audio clip went viral in the US a few years ago. While some people heard it as Yanny and others as Laurel, the audio got much attention leading to fun-filled debates.

The United States Air Force posted a tweet based on the debate. The tweet went like this – ‘The Taliban Forces in Farah city #Afghanistan would much rather have heard #Yanny or #Laurel than the deafening #BRRRT they got courtesy of our #A10.’

People felt it was an insensitive tweet and it put the Air Force in a bad light. Though people may have different views on war, the tweet was not acceptable to many. Later they deleted the tweet and issued an apology. 

The ‘VR Puerto Rico Tour’ of Facebook 

After the devastating Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, Mark Zuckerberg used Spaces, the VR app, to tour the place. The intention was to show off Facebook’s VR capabilities. But people felt the social media giant was trying to exploit the disaster for its benefit. He was called a ‘heartless billionaire’ by online users after the live stream. Later he apologized and said the intention was to show how VR could raise awareness. 

The ‘White is Purity’ Campaign of Nivea

Nivea has posted an advertisement promoting its product ‘Black and White Invisible Deodorant’ which was referred to as misleading. It appeared on Nivea’s Middle East Facebook page. The ad featured an image of a woman from the back with long, dark hair in a white outfit. It had a tagline – ‘White is Purity.’ 

The campaign message was misleading and racially insensitive. It was quickly picked up and shared by white supremacist groups. The post was immediately withdrawn by the company and they apologized for the same. 

The ‘Blonde Espresso’ Campaign of Starbucks 

Starbuck has launched an offline and online campaign for introducing its new addition called ‘Blonde Espresso.’ One of the ads had this text – ‘Who says Espresso had to be intense? We have for 43 years. But we’re Starbucks Coffee Company. So we did the exact Opposite.’ 

The wordings were so confusing that the consumers couldn’t understand what the brand was trying to convey. The company hasn’t yet explained the rather absurd ad.

Let Us Help You Create Winning Social Media Campaigns

If you are looking for ways to create successful social media campaigns, let our team assist you. At Fresh Content Society, we help you create winning campaigns that align with your marketing goals. Get in touch with our team today! 

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