2012’s social media marketing hits and misses

26 Dec 2012

With social media, it couldn’t be easier for brands to connect with their fans and launch new marketing campaigns. Sometimes, they get it so right we have to commend them. Other times, they get it so wrong that we can’t help but facepalm in their general direction. Join us for a run-down of this year’s memorable moments, successes and mishaps of online marketing.



With it being so easy to connect with brands these days, fans can get in touch with the wildest requests. One man this year visited the Samsung Canada Facebook page to ask for a free Galaxy S III smartphone in exchange for his crude drawing of a dragon. At first, Samsung declined the request but gave the fan a similarly child-like doodle of a kangaroo instead. The exchange went viral on Reddit and, apparently delighted with the free publicity the eager fan’s request earned, Samsung decided to fulfil his request after all – complete with custom dragon packaging, covers and wallpaper.

Fan's custom Samsung Galaxy S III


Someone, somewhere picked up that this seemingly innocent blouse with contrast piping bears a strikingly phallic symbol on the chest, and what was seen could never be unseen. The hashtag #penisblouse began trending on Twitter and, instead of being embarrassed, ASOS cleverly turned the humorous situation into a sales pitch, asking users to tweet images of them wearing the blouse. Even the ASOS team behind the well-endowed creation joined in the fun.

ASOS penis blouse

ASOS penis blouse


When a disgruntled man took to Bodyform’s Facebook page to complain about the lies perpetrated by the brand, the post was a viral success. What was an even bigger hit, though, was Bodyform’s response.

Bodyform Facebook complaint



When Prince Harry was caught with his pants down in Las Vegas this summer, LasVegas.com spied an opportunity to revitalise its ‘Know the Code’ campaign. The code being, of course, ‘What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas.’

The site blasted the ‘exploiters’ that outed Harry on Twitter and used the royal scandal to spread its #KnowTheCode hashtag. Tourism in Las Vegas reportedly saw a boost shortly afterwards, but there’s no telling if this was a direct result of the marketers or the allure of the crown jewels.

LasVegas.com #KnowTheCode


Earlier in the summer, Oreo faced backlash for a post on its Facebook page that saw the famous treats don the rainbow colours for LGBT Pride Month. While Oreo was shouting about its proud support of love, critics of gay marriage began shouting back, threatening to boycott Oreo and parent company Kraft.

Oreo Pride

Others, who met Oreo’s posting with positivity, challenged the naysayers to boycott all companies that have positioned themselves in support of gay rights, including Google, Apple, Amazon, General Motors, Coca-Cola, Microsoft, Nike – the list goes on. Even just a boycott of Kraft foods would leave many cupboards fairly empty.

The stuffed biscuit remains one of the biggest brands on Facebook, with 30m likes and, with the opponents made to look foolish, Oreo (and gay rights) were the real winners this time around.

That Big Event in London

This pop-up brand began selling its ‘reality check’ souvenir tote bags and T-shirts online ahead of the London 2012 Olympic Games. The stg£15 merchandise bore subversive slogans like ‘They’re all on steroids’, ‘It only took me three hours to get to work this morning’ and ‘I’m renting my flat to a fat American family’, though the latter in particular attracted the ire of Team USA’s supporters on Facebook.

That Big Event in London reality check souvenir T-shirts

However, the negative comments did not detract from sales and stock was flying out, with designer Toby Leigh saying plenty of American tourists with a sense of humour were even picking them up.

Susan Boyle’s PR team

An unfortunate sequence of characters, or a marketing genius at work? That was the question when the hashtag selected to promote a listening party and Q&A for Susan Boyle’s new album was #susanalbumparty. Twitter investigator Is Twitter Wrong? discovered that the hashtag double entendre did indeed originate from the official Susan Boyle Twitter account, but was later changed to #SusanBoyleAlbumParty.


While it’s likely the PR gurus regretted their original choice, we still think they’re winners having achieved wider reach than expected with the dodgy one.



What began as a well-intentioned hashtag ended up as a ‘bashtag’ when Twitter users hijacked the McDonald’s #McDStories tag with horror stories from the fast-food chain. References in the tweets ranged from obesity and diabetes to fingernails discovered in fries. Even McDonald’s couldn’t put the genie back in the bottle and, even though the campaign was pulled, the bashtag continues to be used negatively.



Starbucks Ireland

The Starbucks Ireland Twitter account got a little carried away with Queen Elizabeth II’s Diamond Jubilee celebrations this year, apparently forgetting that Ireland is no longer a part of the Queen’s realm. A tweet asking followers what made them proud to be British provoked backlash and prompted an apology from the coffee makers.

Starbucks Ireland


During the 2012 Olympics, one of the biggest trending topics on Twitter was #NBCfail, owing to the US network’s decision to delay coverage of some events for prime-time viewing, even though there was little viewers could do to avoid hearing the results of every event on various social media channels in the interim. NBC even live tweeted the opening ceremony hours before they would broadcast it themselves. To add more fuel to the fire, the opening ceremony commentators showed their ignorance as country’s names were mispronounced and presenter Bob Costas tried desperately to find something relevant to say about nations he clearly knew very little about.

NBC fail

American Apparel, Gap, Urban Outfitters, CelebBoutique and Kenneth Cole

Piggybacking on a trending topic is a common social media marketing ploy, though that doesn’t mean all trending topics are fair game. Here we have just some of the year’s misguided brands that thought tragic and devastating events such as Hurricane Sandy, the Aurora shooting and the uprising in Egypt were fodder for their marketing messages.

American Apparel


Urban Outfitters


Kenneth Cole


Cinnamon café in Ranelagh, Dublin, made the headlines this year for breaking the golden rule of interacting with customers on social media: don’t resort to name-calling.


That said, the Dublin 6 café did sweeten its apology with special discounts on coffee for customers that quoted ‘Twittergate’, retaining some semblance of class.


But it’s not just brands that need to learn when to hold their tongues on social media, as one Facebook user who decided to use this platform to voice a complaint to Treacy’s Hotel Waterford has learned. Unfortunately, it seems this lady had been misinformed about the events that transpired on her fiancé’s stag weekend. The entire exchange is wonderfully acted out by Final Boss Media below, but beware: NSFW language comes with.


Death by social media

And finally, we’ll take a moment to remember those that were mistakenly declared dead by social media users this year. Morgan Freeman is constantly falling victim to these hoaxes, and this year he was joined by Mick Jagger, Bill Cosby, Reese Witherspoon and Keanu Reeves – all of whom are alive and well, I assure you.

Worse still are the tweets from users following the death of a high-profile public figure, confusing the dearly departed with someone else. To clarify: Neil Armstrong, astronaut, died in August 2012; Billie Joe Armstrong, frontman of Green Day, is still going strong.

Neil Armstrong Twitter fails

These are likely the same people that were surprised to find out that the Titanic was real.

Elaine Burke is the host of For Tech’s Sake, a co-production from Silicon Republic and The HeadStuff Podcast Network. She was previously the editor of Silicon Republic.