We all know that Twitter offers you the ability to create a trackable, branded hashtag. But have we really thought about the implications of this? You as the company choose the words, letters, and caps on the hashtag. This is a great opportunity to create a name for your company, but it is also a great opportunity to show that you have not planned at all for the branding monster you have just created.
The following list includes major corporations, government agencies, and artists who failed in either the creation, execution, or use of their own branded hashtags. Don’t be like them. Create something amazing and memorable, for the right reasons.
Back in 2012, McDonalds decided to launch two branded hashtags at the same time for one campaign exposing the story behind the produce supply chain to their stores. The first hashtag was very specific: #meetthefarmers. The second hashtag was vague: #McDstories. While the first hashtag worked great for McDonalds, the second created a firestorm of negative tweets. McDonalds pulled the hashtag from promotion within two hours. This is still a fail that is living on in blog posts today.
Ate a McFish and vomited 1 hour later....The last time I got McDonalds was seriously 18 years ago in college..... #McDstories— RSYP (@stilettochemist) January 24, 2012
This little known incident happened back in November of 2012. Susan Boyle was hosting an album party for her new album “Standing Ovation”. In the producers' haste to promote the event, they posted a hashtag that unfortunately could be misread into a VERY different kind of party than an album release party. They quickly deleted the tweet but not after having it retweeted multiple times and seeing it become one of the top trending topics on Twitter.
This branded hashtag seems pretty straightforward and innocent. However, in this campaign the marketing team forgot to check when it was scheduled to go live. While the ability to pre-schedule posts on social media platforms is a very useful tool sometimes campaigns need to be updated. Just a day after Qantas entire fleet was grounded due to failed contract negotiations, their latest Twitter contest campaign launched encouraging followers to tweet their ideal luxury flight experience. Twitter pandemonium ensued.
Walgreens received backlash for this hashtag not because of any controversy as a company but because of how it executed the trend. For some reason the #ILoveWalgreens hashtag appears to be the first time the internet recognized that Twitter offered the opportunity for companies to purchase trending hashtags. While this was nothing new at the time, people seemed to be really confused as to why there was a “promoted” box beside the hashtag. Nevertheless people took the time to tweet their sentiments and poke fun at the hashtag.
RT @Cloris_Leachman #iLoveWalgreens because when you walk in at 2am to buy toilet paper, shaving cream, & ski mask they don’t ask questions.— OhThatDonnaBrown (@ThatDonnaBrown) January 15, 2012
Why would #ilovewalgreens EVER be a trending topic????— Joel Onyshuk (@JoelOnyshuk) January 13, 2012
When Chicago Transit decided to update their method of payment, they did not expect the headache that it caused. In response they decided to host a Twitter Q&A to help alleviate some of the confusion. Before the Q&A even started the hashtag was flooded with more jabs at the system itself than any actual questions seeking answers. While it may have seemed like a good idea at the time, in the end #AskVentra was destined to join this fail list.
MT @ryanlwilliams @VentraChicago enters elite ring of #AskJPM & #myNYPD, w/#AskVentra, which has devolved into chaos an hr before it starts.— Aaron Cynic (@aaroncynic) May 7, 2014
Why does the Ventra logo look like a guy hanging upside-down? Does that make it easier to collect money? #AskVentra pic.twitter.com/0b5vlIGZqL— MVP Rickshaw (@VeganPedicab) May 7, 2014
Dr. Oz decided to take to Twitter one day to choose his topics of conversation on his show. This ended up being a massive mistake. While he probably received some questions which needed to be answered the highlight of the hashtag were the amount of snarky jokes which were tweeted using the hashtag. Here are a few of the best:
@DrOz #OzsInbox Which Starbucks roast should I use for the most effective coffee enema? I was thinking Sumatra, but Verona is so smooth.— Anowyn (@AnowynTweets) November 12, 2014
@DrOz Is our plummeting morality due to the fleecing of our population by good looking authority figures? Or is it vaccines? #OzsInbox— Dr. Rob Lamberts (@doc_rob) November 12, 2014
At this point it should be clear to see that if you are going to do a Twitter Q&A, make sure your company is essentially beyond reproach. JP Morgan didn't get the memo, though. In the midst of government investigation, JP Morgan decided to host a Twitter Q&A. The response was so negative that they pulled the idea within 6 hours of announcing it. Essentially this is the branded hashtag that never had a chance. This hashtag fail became so popular that the best way to enjoy it is through a reading of the tweets themselves.