Twitter Marketing Fails of 2012

As the New Year beckons, I’m looking back at the good, the bad, and the ugly in social media marketing. Hopefully each and every case study has a valuable lesson to be learnt.

Twitter is one of my favorite IM tools. From just one good tweet, word can spread like wildfire and go viral instantaneously. With planning and maintenance you can strengthen your brand, drive traffic and increase conversions.

Naturally it’s not as easy as it sounds. And I’ve compiled the top 4 Twitter marketing fails of 2012 for your pleasure.

At best we can learn from these mistakes. At worst we get a good laugh at their expense all the way til 2013.


Hashtag Hell

In mid January, McDonald’s started a Twitter campaign with the introduction of their hashtag #McDstories. The idea was simple, to get people to tweet stories about their most memorable McDs moment.

Hello hashtag hell!

Instead of receiving heart-warming stories of family moments in the Golden Arches, people were sharing horror stories of the fast-food giant. From finding fried cockroaches in their fries, to getting abused by their customer service. Every damaging story was out there for the world to see in less than 140 characters.

McDs fail

The #McDstories campaign was pulled after only two hours. The hashtag still exists by the way. I just searched for it on Twitter and found a tweet that was posted 9 hours ago as I write  this:

“The vanilla cone from McDonalds tastes like lard #McDstories”

Look, you can’t control free will. And the anonymity that comes with the Internet gives people a free pass to be mean without suffering any repercussions. So be weary of your hashtag because it can (and mostly likely will) be abused.



Whoever is in charge of Toyota’s social media marketing is a noob. 

Earlier this year, Toyota created nine Twitter accounts to promote a contest of their new Camry during the Super Bowl called “Camry Effect a Friend Giveaway”. Then every user that tweeted ANYTHING related to the Super Bowl, hashtag added or not, received a reply from a verified Toyota account about signing up to win a car or something like that.

Toyota's Twitter Marketing

I mean look at their “marketing strategy”. Someone just tweeted the word “patriots” and received Toyota’s spam in return.

They called it mass marketing. People called it spam. I call it stupid. 

Always have a target market. Tweet unique and personalized messages to users whenever possible. Don’t latch on to the biggest event that’s currently happening and hope to gain any conversions. I mean, c’mon… What does the Super Bowl have to do with buying a new Camry?


Celebrity tweet fail

Snickers UK hired reality TV star and “model” Jordan a.k.a Katie Price for their Twitter campaign. Basically she tweeted four, totally out-of-character tweets about economics, the Eurozone debt crisis and China’s GNP. Then followed that with:

 “You’re not you when you’re hungry @snickersuk #hungry #spon” (with a link to the picture below)

Snickers paid tweet

Yes, I can see where they were going with this. The fact that you aren’t yourself when hungry and Snickers is the cure for that. Great.

The problem with this particular gimmick was that people immediately started pointing out that Jordan went from tweeting about serious matters and showing intelligence to tweeting about reality TV and nail polish, after eating Snickers. 

Therefore we can conclude that either:

1. Snickers makes you stupid or

2. Snickers thinks Jordan is stupid

No such thing as bad publicity? Not in my opinion.


Leveraging on Sandy

This is so ridiculous, I really have no idea what these companies were thinking.

Basically, in October when Hurricane Sandy was ravaging the East Coast of the US, major retailers including American Apparel, the Gap and Urban Outfitters decided it would be awesome to leverage on the natural disaster.

urban outfitters fail

Elsewhere, Gap advised those affected by the hurricane to “stay safe” then chirped on happily, “We’ll be doing lots of shopping today. How about you?” There were 20% sales on offer from a multitude of sites with the code: SandySale. 


sandy death toll

 Obviously the repercussions were immense. The outrage understandable. People are still talking about today. Don’t leverage on times of crisis as a marketing strategy. 

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