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03 March 2017

Lessons we can learn from recent social media faux pas and marketing mishaps

Creating a killer campaign takes a lot of careful thought and planning but what happens when all that careful planning goes wrong? This Valentine’s Day saw London Dungeons creating a very different buzz with their social media campaign than what they had intended.

In case you missed it, they ran a bunch of dark history related jokes across their social media platforms. With many controversial quotes such as ‘What’s the difference between your job and a dead prostitute? Your job still sucks!’ it left many wondering how on earth the campaign got signed off in the first place.

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The posts have since been deleted, and an apology statement issued, but has the damage been done? In reality, for a large tourist attraction such as the London Dungeons probably not. But it did get us thinking about other campaigns we can’t believe were given the thumbs up to go live, and what we can learn from them. 

1. Aldi Australia’s fill in the blank campaign (2016)

In January, Aldi Australia tweeted out a graphic that read ‘I became an ALDI lover when I tasted _____ for the first time.’ Anyone who has spent any time on Twitter can probably guess the result. After many an unforgiving response, the tweet was swiftly deleted. However, the campaign did do well on Facebook where people actually used ALDI products to fill in the blank rather than adult-only comments, which we can only imagine was the original idea of the campaign.

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LESSON = Asking people on social media to fill in the blanks can be risky. While a touch of tongue in cheek humour might be right for some brands, it’s important to decide whether the potentially X-rated comments would be right for your brand and if not, make sure you have a crisis strategy in place for if it all goes pear shaped. 

2. Protein World’s Beach Body Ready ad (2015)

You know the one. The yellow one with a bikini clad lady asking ‘Are you beach body ready?’ The ASA (Advertising Standards Authority) received nearly 400 complaints about the ad shown around the London Underground, and the ad was banned following 70,000 signatures on a petition and a mass bikini clad protest. Campaign Magazine named it the worst advertisement of 2015, but Protein World maintained it was a great campaign for them. Whatever your view, there’s no denying this campaign sparked outrage across social media and definitely got everyone talking about the brand.

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LESSON = Think about how your campaign may be received – both the good and the bad outcomes – and decide whether you are happy for your brand to be associated with that. 

3. KFC Australia’s hot and spicy mistake (2016)

‘WARNING: #NSFW. Something hot and spicy is coming soon…’ The tweet itself may not have been too bad, but accompanied by an image of a man and a woman, with the woman reaching to the man’s blurred out crotch area made it very risqué. It didn’t go down well with Twitter users and was deleted within an hour, but the campaign will live forever in the screenshots.

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LESSON = Risque is risky! Think carefully about whether it’s worth the risk or whether it could end up alienating potential customers. 

4. #susananalbumparty (2012)

While we all got a giggle from the backfired hashtag for Susan Boyle’s album launch a few years ago, it’s pretty obvious that’s not what they were meaning. But PR stunt or social media mishap, who knows? One thing’s for sure though, it definitely got the whole Twittersphere chatting.

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LESSON = Always double and triple check your hashtags! 

5. British Airways competitor mistake (2016)

British Airways learned the hard way about being careful about what other brand’s posts you share. They mistakenly shared a Facebook post with the tagline ‘There’s never been a better time to visit London’. The only problem? The post was from Virgin Atlantic’s Facebook page. Virgin were quick off the mark to thank them publicly for sharing, and whilst this mishap won’t have done too much damage, it’s a reminder of what not to do.

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LESSON = don’t promote your direct competitors!

All in all the main lesson to learn is to make sure you have planned carefully before launching a campaign. Ill thought out campaigns could lead to PR disaster and social media suicide so it’s important to get it right.

It’s important to identify your audience and to work out what would work for them and what wouldn’t before planning any campaign. Remember, each brand’s audience is different and finding out how to get them engaged is the key to social media success.

Social listening is one great way of tapping into your audience’s psyche and you can find out a little bit more about exactly how that works here.