Marketing Campaign Failures: Failed Hashtags

Some marketing campaigns fail not because they didn’t get attention, but they got the wrong kind of attention.  Twitter is notorious for hashtag campaign failures, as many companies learn very quickly that user-generated content is not always a good idea.  Twitter hashtags can easily be hijacked, and open companies to negative publicity.  Sometimes, hashtags are poorly planned and correlate with world events in an insensitive manner.  Other times, marketing directors do not do their homework and use a hashtag that has an additional meaning that what they intended.  Here are some of the most famous (and embarrassing) hashtag failures.


In 2012, McDonald’s launched the #McDStories campaign, encouraging followers to post their inspiring stories about their experience at McDonald’s.  The hashtag quickly became a “bashtag” as followers shared horror stories instead.  Some examples are:

“One time, I walked into McDonald’s and I could smell Type 2 Diabetes floating in the air and I threw up.”

“I lost 50lbs in 6 months after I quit working and eating at McDonalds.”

“My memories of walking into a McDonald’s: The sensory experience of inhaling deeply from a freshly-opened can of dog food.”

DiGiorno’s  #WhyIStayed

DiGiorno’s experienced an uproar about their #WhyIStayed tweet when they failed to do their homework.  The hashtag was circling twitter to fight the victim-blaming attitude and allow women to share their personal experiences after a video of Ray Rice punching his fiancee Janay Palmer led to his termination from the Baltimore Ravens.  DiGiorno Pizza only noticed the circling hashtag and failed to do their research on the meaning behind it.  They tweeted “#WhyIStayed You had pizza.”  It was an insensitive tweet, and they apologized.  They also offered personalized apologizes to individuals who were offended by the tweet.

Entenmann #notguilty

Another example of not doing your homework comes from Entenmann donuts and their #notguilty tweet.  Casey Anthony had just been acquitted that morning for the murder of her daughter, Caylee Marie Anthony.  Caylee was found in a trashbag six months after her disappearance with duct tape found near the front of the skull and near the mouth.  The jury found her not guilty of the murder of the child, raising public uproar, including the trending tweet #notguilty.  Entenmann jumped on the bandwagon without doing their research and posted “Who is #notguilty about eating all the tasty treats they want?!” The company claimed that they did not mean to refer to the trail, and apologized for their insensitivity.  Entenmann abandoned twitter for years, leaving their account shamed by their accident.


This concludes our marketing campaign failures series.  In case you missed any, you can find them here: SanDisk’s iDon’t campaign, Dr Pepper’s Free Soda, and U2’s Free Album.

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