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6 Social Media Fails That Taught Us What NOT to Do

In an era where a single post can go viral within seconds, it is crucial that we navigate the treacherous waters of social media with caution and foresight. In this article, we explore six instances where individuals, brands, and even institutions stumbled upon the pitfalls of online presence, reminding us all of the importance of thoughtful engagement, strategic planning, and mindful content creation.  


Burger King – Saudi Arabia 

Burger King faced backlash on social media for a campaign celebrating the lifting of the Saudi women driving ban. The controversial name change, ‘WhoppHER,’ was seen as similar to ‘whop,’ meaning ‘to hit hard’. The campaign offered free Whopper sandwiches to female drivers, with the temporary ‘WhoppHER’ name. The tagline of the campaign was ‘Celebrating Our Driving Women’ in English and Arabic. Social media users criticized the name, questioning if it implied violence, and expressed concerns about potential sexual assault claims. 

Hence, the lesson learned here is the importance of cultural sensitivity and thorough research when implementing a campaign. 



Pepsi’s commercial featuring Kendall Jenner failed miserably in delivering a message of unity. It led to a swift public outcry and the campaign being pulled. The controversial ad showed Jenner joining a protest, offering a can of Pepsi to a police officer, and receiving cheers. The backlash on Twitter hence forced Pepsi to apologize, remove the content, and acknowledge their mistake.  

It serves as a reminder to strive for authenticity and involve focus groups when addressing sensitive social issues in marketing campaigns. 



Dove’s 2017 limited-edition Real Beauty Bottle packaging, designed to celebrate diverse body types, backfired as it unintentionally triggered insecurities among buyers. The campaign’s well-intentioned message of body positivity was lost, leaving Dove to face backlash and engage in damage control. While the brand’s strong reputation and loyal customer base prevented significant harm, the lesson learned is that not every product should categorize customers or remind them of their insecurities, highlighting the importance of prioritizing functionality over gimmicky segmentation. 



Huggies’ 2012 “The Dad Test” campaign backfired by perpetuating stereotypes and making fun of fatherhood. The campaign wrongly assumed that dads would struggle with childcare without their partners and alienated same-sex couples and single parents. The backlash from dad bloggers highlighted the ridicule, leading to a half-hearted apology from Huggies.  

Hence, the lesson learned is to ensure that fun or light-hearted messaging is inclusive and avoids relying on stereotypes to resonate with all users of a product or service. 



Airbnb faced criticism for its ill-timed “Floating World” email campaign during Hurricane Harvey in 2017. The campaign promoted water-themed homes and attractions, which many found insensitive given the ongoing disaster. The headlines said “how to spend a day – or entire trip – without touching dry land”, “Stay above water” and “Live aquatic life with these floating homes.” 

Airbnb apologized for the timing and expressed support for those affected. Hence, the incident highlights the importance of monitoring and adjusting marketing messages during unforeseen events, while also emphasizing the value of a robust corporate social responsibility program in mitigating the impact of such mistakes. 


Elon Musk’s Twitter Takeover  

It is impossible to talk about social media fails without talking about Elon’s takeover of Twitter and starting a Twitter poll where he asked his followers if he should step down as CEO. Despite the poll resulting in 57.5% of voters supporting his departure, Musk has remained in his position.  

Elon Musk’s acquired Twitter for a staggering $44 billion, his leadership of the social media platform has been far from successful. The hashtag #RIPTwitter gained traction, leading to the emergence of alternative platforms and a wave of advertiser departures.  


What is the takeaway? 

These marketing blunders serve as a valuable lesson: meticulous planning is crucial for successful campaigns. Hence, it is essential to ensure that your intended message is effectively conveyed throughout your marketing efforts. While going viral or becoming a meme can bring significant benefits, it should be done for the right reasons. To guarantee the success of your marketing strategy, careful planning and innovative concepts are key.  

Avoid marketing failures by choosing Leap as your trusted marketing partner. With our expertise and guidance, we can help you achieve your goals and avoid common pitfalls in your marketing endeavours. 


Contact us for a free 30-minutes consultation.