Friday, November 21, 2014

Social Media Messaging: The light side & the dark side

by Alyssa Wilcox

During the 3rd quarter of Superbowl XLVII when a power outage at the Superdome caused some lights to go out for 34 minutes, Oreo tweeted Power Out? No problemYou can still dunk in the dark.” The company attached their image to its tweet, which was retweeted more than 10,000 times within the ensuring Superbowl hour. Not bad for a one liner from a cookie brand.

Oreo got it right - a terrific brand voice that capitalized on a "light" cultural moment. 

* * *

Not all brands get social media and its messaging.  Here are 4 brands that simply blew it. At best these are cautionary tales of  poorly judged communications  - or at worst, these are tactless, tasteless and harmful communications that show a darkness to some brands.

#1 Luton Airport
On March 13th, 2013 at 9:15 GMT, London’s Luton Airport posted a picture on Facebook, showing an image of the 2005 plane crash in Chicago, which left one child dead. The picture displayed the phrase: “Because we are such a super airport…. this is what we prevent you from when it snows… Weeeee :)”.

Given the tragedy of the youngster, needless to say, many found this brand to be making light of a terrible situation. By 10:30 GMT the post was removed and a public apology was issued. 

#2 Epicurious
Frequently, brands utilize social media to capitalize on traumatic events to gain brand exposure.  Sometimes these social media exposures can help both the cause and the brand - but sometimes they exploit  (or appear to be exploiting) a tragedy.  Epicurious, an online grocery store, tweeted food suggestions after the Boston marathon bombings saying in an attempt to promote their products. One tweet read, “In honor of Boston and New England, may we suggest: whole-grain cranberry scones!” while another stated, “Boston, our hearts are with you. Here’s a bowl of breakfast energy we could all use to start today”.   Curious

#3  American Apparel
American Apparel and its CEO are no strangers to controversy.  Their explicit communications frequently are designed to shock and create publicity.  One call they made in October 2013 seriously backfired. The American Apparel marketing department put together an email and distributed to their customer database. It read “In case you’re bored during the storm 20% OFF EVERYTHING FOR NEXT 36 HOURS”. A map of the United States was included in the email and highlighted the Northeast area, making it clear that only the states being hit by hurricane Sandy, could reap the benefits of the sale. The company experienced huge consumer backlash, as demonstrated through customer’s tweets and facebook posts that criticized the brand’s actions. The email required a large amount of damage control for the brand.  

#4 Kenneth Cole & Cairo
You'd think designer brands understand the importance of tight messaging to control their brand image.  But, in April 2013, during the rioting in Cairo, Egypt, the brand Kenneth Cole tweeted: “Millions are in uproar in #Cairo. Rumor has it they heard our new spring collection is now available online at - KC”.  Issuing such a statement when dozens  are being injured or even dying is definitely not cool. Surprise surprise - Kenneth Cole issued an apology. 


  1. AT&T had a bad one using its phone and twin towers on 9-11.

  2. MCD's had #meethefarmers and it got overrun by haters lol FAIL.

  3. Bob look at the Chrysler fail and post that up.

  4. Your article is highly informative, I have found some important facts in it. Thanks for sharing this informative post...
    smartphone app developer