5 Tweets That Damaged Entire Brands

Mira Palomaki

How can something so small – 140 characters or less – make such a big impact, for better or for worse? Well, believe it can!

Twitter is the most reactive of the social media platforms and has become a crucial part of people’s – not to mention journalists’ – tools to get the latest update on what’s happening in the world. Twitter is also a great way for brands to be reactive and “feel the pulse” – if the world has got #royalbaby fever, why not seize the moment to launch your latest pair of Union Jack-covered baby Uggs?


However, being reactive on Twitter can sometimes spell disaster – and there are lessons to be learnt from these five tweets that damaged entire brands.

Fashion retailer markets Batman shooting

Celeb Bout

Hours after the Batman shootings took place at a cinema in Aurora, Colorado, UK-based fashion retailer Celeb Boutique sent the above tweet.

Needless to say, the post sent the Twittesphere into frenzy, and after an hour of angry comments, the tweet was taken down. According to the company’s PR people, they were not aware of the shooting when they posted the tweet.

Lesson to be learned? Don’t jump on just any hashtag that’s trending, do your research first. A great tool is WhatTheTrend, where you can get information about what is trending and why.


Gap in storm over Hurricane Sandy tweet



During the height of Hurricane Sandy in October last year, clothing retailer Gap posted a highly insensitive tweet – urging people to stay safe inside, and the message implied that while safely indoors, why not indulge in a little bit of online shopping?

American Apparel took it one step further. The retailer sent out a newsletter to customers in the Eastern states (where Hurricane Sandy was wreaking havoc), offering them 20 per cent off.

“Just enter SANDYSALE at Checkout,” the newsletter stated.

Needless to say, both brands were criticized not only in the Twittesphere, but in the media.

Lesson to be learned? Trying to sell something on the back of a disaster or tragedy is just never a great idea.


#McDstories don’t have a happy ending



It’s never pretty when hashtags become a bashtag.

In 2012, McDonald’s tried to engage with customers, encouraging them to share their best #mcdstories.

Instead, customers and formers employees used the hashtag to share horror stories of not-so-happy meals. The campaign was taken down within two hours, and McDonald’s later admitted that “#mcdstories did not go as planned.”

Qantas #QantasLuxury campaign backfired in a similar way. The airline company decided to run a Twitter competition encouraging people to share their dream luxury in-flight experience. An hour later, the hashtag was trending but for all the wrong reasons – mainly because of the timing of the competition. It followed months of negative publicity stemming from union disputes, which resulted in the grounding of the entire Qantas fleet – which resulted in many unhappy customers, who shared their discontent on Twitter using #QantasLuxury.

Lesson to be learned? You never know what you are going to get when you launch your brand into the Twittesphere. But if you have a feeling you need to “clean house”, i.e. take your customers’ criticisms seriously, do that first!


KitchenAid’s offensive Obama tweet



When it comes to insensitive tweets, American kitchen appliances retailer takes the prize. After President Obama mentioned his grandmother during the first presidential debate in October last year, KitchenAid posted the above tweet to its 24,000 followers.

The company quickly apologised, and explained that a member had mistakenly posted it from the company account instead of from a personal handle – an increasingly common Twitter mistake.

Lesson to be learned? Make sure your social media strategist is really trained in social media, to avoid mistakes like this. Also, make sure to change your passwords whenever you employ a new person to handle your social media. A former disgruntled employee with the login to your Twitter handle is a disaster waiting to happen (and has happened).
Kenneth Cole couldn’t care less about Cairo



Kenneth Cole put the foot in his mouth with this tweet!

The American shoe designer decided for unfathomable reasons to hijack the #Cairo hashtag to promote his new spring collection. As the tweet reveals, the company was unashamedly aware that people were in “uproar” in the riots in Egypt – yet decided to tweet ahead.

The Twittersphere was outraged, and some people even called for a boycott.

Lesson to be learned? Just use a little bit of common sense and decency. And if all else fail, hire a PR company that specialises in social media (um, not to be too pushy, but you’re looking at one right now!)


One thought on “5 Tweets That Damaged Entire Brands

  1. I recall some, but not all of these faux pas. It’s an important lesson for people about why PR companies still exist in the 21st century. We may have access to the tools but the knowledge and experience are still a precious commodity. Thanks for this great article Mira.

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