What You Can Learn From Big Brand Marketing Fails

Alexander Huls

Everyone makes mistakes sometimes. That’s especially true on social media where even huge companies trip up and get themselves into hot water. While we don’t take pleasure in others’ mistakes, there’s still a lot of small businesses like yours that can learn from Fortune 500 slip-ups.

So, here are a few social media flubs that provide valuable lessons you can apply to your own small business social media strategy.

JP Morgan

The Situation: When JPMorgan, the multinational financial services company, announced a Twitter Q&A with its vice chairman and asked people to submit questions, the responses were not pretty. The company proved unaware of its public image and the anger it can inspire. It didn’t take long for JPMorgan to realize its error and call the whole thing off.

Lesson: Twitter Q&As are a great way to engage with your followers, but you should be very self-aware about what your public image is before doing more. If your business, or your industry, can inspire disgruntlement, you might want to skip the Q&A and spare yourself the abuse.


The Situation: The day of the tragic Boston Marathon bombings, food website Epicurious inexplicably used the occasion to promote their recipes. Bad idea. After a wave of outrage, the company deleted the offending tweets and apologized.

Lesson: Never, ever use a tragedy in any way to promote your business or product. That might sound like common sense, but it’s a mistake companies–bizarrely–constantly make. Don’t follow in their footsteps. The only thing you should (maybe) ever tweet about a tragedy is your sympathies to those who are affected.

London Luton Airport

The Situation: Luton Airport used an image of a plane crash to make a joke promoting its services. The problem? The plane crash shown in the image resulted in the death of a child. Not surprisingly, people were upset.

Lesson: Yes, it’s good social media practice to attach images to your posts. But don’t just blindly go with whatever picture you find on Google Images without first looking into its full history and context.

US Airways

The Situation: When US Airways’s Twitter account was responding to a frustrated customer, they wound up attaching an extremely graphic image of … well, just take our word for it. It was inappropriate. The error occurred because US Airways had received the image earlier in a tweet and was reporting it as inappropriate. In doing so, the image URL got copied, and found its way into an innocuous tweet.

The Lesson: It’s a good reminder to always make sure you know what you’re copy and pasting, and to triple check every tweet you send out to make sure nothing gets out there that shouldn’t be tweeted.

DiGiorno Pizza

The Situation: After football player Ray Rice was suspended for assaulting his fiancée, hashtags #WhyIStayed and #WhyILeft were used by those sharing their heartbreaking experiences with domestic abuse. Without checking what the trending hashtag was associated with, DiGiorno leaped into the fray with an extremely ill-advised promotion that thought #WhyIStayed simply meant why someone would not leave a friend’s place (pizza being the reason in this case).

The Lesson: Using hashtags is essential for a small business, but always check to make sure you know what the hashtag actually is. Just because you see one trending and see an opportunity, doesn’t mean you should assume it’s self-explanatory and use it.


The Situation: A Kitchenaid’s team member wound up forgetting to log out of the company’s account and tweeted a personal, not so nice, opinion about President Obama and his grandmother to Kitchenaid’s tens of thousands of followers.

The Lesson: If you have a personal and a small business Twitter account, always make sure you’re logged into the right one for whatever you’re about to tweet. Believe me, this is one of the easiest mistakes to make on this list.


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