4 Awful, Alarming but Still a Little Funny Social Media Fails

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Social is a big equalizer. While not having a presence on various forms of social media can cost customers, having one and messing it up can be even worse (but more entertaining). No matter how big or small your business is, no brand is resistant to failure. This is good news for SMBs, but not such good news for the brands below, who have all managed to be in the social limelight for the wrong reasons.

J.P. Morgan

Do your clothes fit better without the added weight of a soul? How do you get blood stains out of a clown suit? While they’re not questions everyone has asked while sitting across the table from a banker, apparently, it’s what a lot of us are thinking.

J.P. Morgan was clearly out of touch with public perception of their brand when they launched their #AskJPM Twitter campaign. The idea was that for an hour, investment banker Jimmy Lee would answer questions in an online Twitter chat. Sounds innocuous enough, and for most brands it is, but if you are generally more hated than ebola, polio and cholera combined, then it’s likely best to avoid giving your haters a platform for amplification. #justsayin



Lesson: Know the way your company is perceived. Keep that in mind when creating marketing campaigns. Also, try not to add fuel to the fire of the greatest economic crisis of our time.


There was the sheer pants fiasco, then the flippant remarks about a domestic abuse charity, the misguided attempt at a shopping tote and the poorly timed Barbie joke. Founder Chip Wilson has made his share of foolish mistakes, many of his comments bridging on ignorant or even racist. What people likely remember the most, though, is Chip Wilson’s response to the sheer pants debacle.

Wilson made controversial remarks implying that the pants weren’t made for some women’s bodies. "Quite frankly, some women's bodies just actually don't work for it," he said. "It's really about the rubbing through the thighs, how much pressure is there." Because the pants and Lululemon’s clothes in general are meant to facilitate a healthy lifestyle, Wilson’s comments didn’t sit well with Lululemon’s (mostly female) customer base. About a month after this flub, Wilson stepped down from Lululemon. Now, can newly appointed CEO Laurent Potdevin repair relationships on the social front? We’re watching.



Lesson: If you have bad opinions and are the CEO of a company, don’t share them. Better yet, don’t have ignorant opinions.

American Airlines

Almost always, auto tweets are bad and painfully obvious. If you are a big company, it is better not to respond to all tweets than to respond to them all with an awkward, unmatched response. American Airlines learned this when their auto-tweeter got caught in some blundersome situations.

American airlines

Lesson: Don’t be a robot.


What could cheer up Americans in the tense hours following the tragic Boston bombings more than...whole-grain cranberry scones? That must have been the reasoning behind the insensitive “In honor of Boston and New England, may we suggest: whole-grain raspberry scones” and “Boston, our hearts are with you. Here’s a bowl of breakfast energy we could all use to start today” tweets. Sentiment trumps advertising, and bombings trump granola. Every time, no exceptions.


Lesson: Don’t make light of a tragedy. If you’re not sure if your tweet is appropriate for the circumstances, it isn’t. AT&T learned this the hard way as well.

Social Media: The Great Equalizer

Consider what you are saying, who you are saying it to and who you are representing when you say it. Use a friendly voice on social media, not a dry, robotic company voice, and remember to be sensitive to local and current affairs.

While most of these companies have more resources and money than the average SMB, they are not immune to making mistakes. Social media creates an even playing field in many cases, letting SMBs succeed or fail with the biggest companies.

(Image courtesy of rpavich, slightly modified and used on this post)

Nykea Marie Behiel

Nykea is the Director of Content at Vendasta, where she heads up our content marketing team and inbound marketing initiatives.

  • Rebecca Rawlins

    I dislike all the truth stretching that advertisers do anyway. In spite of what the ad agencies think, Americans are not stupid and it tightens our purse strings when ads seem to portray us all as foolish. If you must embellish your products and services then go back to the drawing board and create a product that stands on truth. Here on social media or in print or video ads, Americans are NOT stupid. Quit treating us as if we are and market truthfully!