The Best Accidents and Digital Marketing Fails of 2017

  • August 15, 2017
  • Insights, Digital Marketing, Best Practice

We’re just over half way through 2017, and have already seen new, wacky attempts at digital marketing from brands. Some have been lucky, and have managed to jump on the back of a viral post to general success. Others have attempted to engage customers in ways that have completely backfired. Here our top picks for the brands that won the engagement lottery, and the others whose attempts did more harm than good.

The Winners and Happy Accidents

Ikea and Game of Thrones

Winter is coming…and everyone is wearing rugs from Ikea. Recently, the costume designers of HBO’s ‘Game of Thrones’ revealed that they use Ikea rugs as pelts and capes for its extras on the series. Ikea quickly jumped on board and put together a Facebook campaign.

The marketing stunt involved employees from the Ikea Wembley store gathering furs, and posing for a photo captioned: ‘Night gathers, and now my watch begins…’ The loyal SKOLD rug – as worn by the IKEA Night’s Watch.” Timing is everything, and Ikea’s fast thinking in reaction to HBO’s costume shortcut provoked a lot of organic attention, and a 775% increase in rug sales!

Noteworthy?

Quick reaction times will always win the game (of thrones), and having your product on a popular TV show helps.

#NuggsforCarter

On the 5 April 2017, Carter Wilkerson brazenly tweeted @Wendys: “How many retweets for a year of free chicken nuggets?” The fast food chain replied, “18 million.” Unfazed and still determined, Carter asked the world “HELP ME PLEASE. A MAN NEEDS HIS NUGGS.”

On 9 May, the initial tweet passed Ellen’s ‘Oscar Selfie’ record and amassed an incredible 3.7 million retweets. Wendy’s engagement obviously went through the roof, with other brands like Amazon, Google, Microsoft jumping on board. After a good deed donating £100,000 to the Dave Thomas Foundation (and granting Carter his nuggets) Wendy’s was able to bask in their completely unplanned social media success.

What can we learn?

Competitions + charity + chicken = cracking marketing.

Eggo and Stranger Things

The cult Netflix hit ‘Stranger Things’ was a smash success as soon as it came out in summer 2016. Eleven, the girl with psychokinetic abilities played by Millie Bobby Brown, takes a liking to Eggos after she escapes the laboratory and is immersed in the real world.

Kellogg’s took advantage of this and teamed up with Netflix for Super Bowl 2017. The second season trailer merged with a retro advert for the waffle from 1980. The two brands continued the banter on social media. Amazingly, Eggo didn’t pay anything for the feature, which was watched by more than 111 million people on TV. Not bad for a bit of free promo!

The conclusion?

Take advantage of product placement and influencers, even if they’re a bald girl with psychokinetic powers.

Salt Bae

Ottoman steak 🔪

A post shared by Nusr_et#Saltbae (@nusr_et) on

It all started with a meme. A Turkish chef of Kurdish origin became an Instagram phenomenon. The owner of Nusr-et, a chain of Turkish steak houses, posted a video cutting an Ottoman steak to Instagram. It has been viewed 15.5 million times and the meme ‘Salt Bae’ is well known worldwide.

Who knows what attracted the world to Nusret Gökçe? Perhaps it was the sass as he sprinkled salt, the care in every slice of steak, or those groovy glasses. What becomes an overnight Internet sensation is impossible to predict. He capitalised on this accidental popularity and took advantage of the attention with more videos. He now plans to open restaurants in London and then New York.

The takeaway?

Even smaller, localised companies can benefit from digital marketing, and becoming a meme definitely helps.

The Losers and Big Mistakes

Pepsi and Kendall Jenner

In one of the most high profile advertising fails yet, Pepsi was forced to pull an advert featuring Kendall Jenner after public dismay. It controversially seemed to capitalise on the Black Lives Matter movement. However, instead of bringing awareness to issues of police brutality, they presented a whitewashed alternative where protests are happy and policemen laugh while drinking cans of Pepsi.

Pepsi removed the offensive content and offered an apology: “trying to project a global message of unity, peace and understanding. […]We did not intend to make light of any serious issue.” Bernice King even tweeted a photo of her father, Martin Luther King Jr, confronting police with the caption “if only Daddy would have known about the power of Pepsi.” It just goes to show that jumping on the bandwagon doesn’t always pay off.

Good to remember?

Just because a topic is in the news, doesn’t mean it’s a good advert theme.

McDonalds

In May, fast food giant McDonald’s released what was meant to be a heart-warming advert about a young boy and his single mum remembering their late dad/husband over a Big Mac. However, instead of producing the desired effect, the ad was met with complaints that it heartlessly exploited child bereavement.

Dr Shelley Gilbert, the founder of the bereavement charity Grief Encounter, said they had received “numerous complaints,” adding that McDonalds had “exploited childhood bereavement as a way to connect with young people and surviving parents alike – unsuccessfully.” Clearly, the line between emotion and emotional manipulation is a difficult one to navigate.

Lesson learned?

Stick to tried and tested, inoffensive methods that won't hurt your brand.

#WalkersWave

For the UEFA Champions League final, Walkers had a great idea. It was to as fans to tweet a selfie using the hashtag #WalkersWave for the chance to win free tickets to the big match. The selfies were displayed on a big screen in front of the stadium, as held by former soccer player Gary Lineker. What could possibly go wrong?

Unfortunately, Walkers didn’t have a vetting system in place, so pictures of serial killers, sex offenders, dictators and more appeared for all to see. What seemed like an innocent and innovative campaign at first quickly became a farce and was taken down. Walkers tweeted “we recognise people were offended by irresponsible and offensive posts and we apologise. We are equally upset & have shut the activity down.”

Something to think about?

You can never predict the reaction of the public or their sense of humour.

Thankfully, you don’t have to play the digital marketing lottery. There is no need to pin your hopes on lucky breaks, or big campaigns that easily backfire. GoTo Digital means you don’t have to worry, with valuable customers delivered straight to you, risk-free.