5 Social Networking Promotions That Backfired Spectacularly
The great thing about social media is that it allows whatever stupid thing you want to say to reach your audience instantly. The terrible thing about social media is that it allows whatever stupid thing you want to say to reach your audience instantly. It takes about 30 seconds of thought to accurately gauge whether your brilliant marketing gimmick will build brand engagement or be prosecuted as some kind of hate crime in certain countries in Europe.
The folks on this list did not take those 30 seconds.
Square Enix Asks You to Murder Your Unattractive Friends
Every marketing guru knows that edginess gets results. But there's a fine line between "edgy" and "actively encouraging you to harm your loved ones." Actually, it's not that fine. It's more like the moral equator. Yet when trying to drum up enthusiasm for their new title, Hitman Absolution, Square Enix drunkenly swerved the corporate cruise liner way the hell over that line and crashed it into a reef, killing all aboard.
Since their new game centered on simulated murder, Square Enix decided to promote it with a Facebook game centered on arranging the murders of your real-life friends.
"She's earned this; just look at that picture of her. Total bitch."
It worked like this: First you chose a name from your friends list, then you chose an identifiable trait, such as "her small tits" or "her muffin top." Shockingly, we are not using comedic hyperbole -- those were actual pre-filled options. Finally, you gave the app your reason why she should die. The totally-not-sociopathic selections included things like "her annoying laugh," "her strange odor," and hopefully "sending me these awful Facebook game requests."
"I told him to fuck off the first 156,235 times, but something about his 156,236th pitch intrigues me. ACCEPTED."
Instead of immediately logging your IP and forwarding this information to the FBI, the game posted a message to the victim's wall, stating, "I hope you get killed by a hitman!" followed by a video of Agent 47 blasting their profile pic to kingdom come with a sniper rifle. (Alternatively, if they were one of those people who don't use their own likeness as their avatar, you'd see him shoot a defenseless kitty right in the face.)
If you prove yourself cold and callous enough, you graduate to puppy murder.
After realizing that they just released a tool that handily combined death threats and cyberbullying for the murderous modern asshole on the go, Square Enix pulled the app.
Everyone terminated in the game was also terminated for real, just in case they ever decided to snitch.
In their defense, though, Square Enix wasn't the first to ask consumers to sacrifice their Facebook friends to the corporate money gods ...
Burger King Asks You to Lose All Your Friends, Eat Hamburgers Instead
Burger King was pretty sure that most people secretly wanted to burn all of their friends in effigy. Now, if only there was a small but tangible reward for doing so -- what a great way to promote a hamburger!
In their "Whopper Sacrifice" promotion, BK encouraged people to remove friends from their friends list in exchange for a prize. We're not sure why Burger King hates the idea of you having friends, but it probably has something to do with the ratio of loneliness to number of chicken fries consumed.
"I'm the only friend you've got, motherfucker."
So how much was each friend worth, you ask? Well, deleting 10 friends from Facebook -- each accompanied by an animation of his or her photo burning to ashes -- got you a coupon for a free hamburger. Now, we're no mathematicians, but we're pretty sure that puts the value of each friend at about two bites of a shitty fast food burger.
Tiny bites, too, like the kind that could choke a finch.
The real kicker was that the app then happily informed each deleted friend via wall post that they were worth less to you than 40 calories of vague gastric regret. This violated Facebook's terms, since they don't generally give unwanted friends a flashing neon sign that you just deleted them -- because that might, you know, spark the occasional psychopathic revenge-type situation. So the app was pulled ... but not before 233,906 friends found themselves flame broiled.
Which is 233,906 more than those slackers in Salem ever managed.
So get set for Burger King's new slogan: "Tastes better than human companionship!"
Obamacare Is "Cool" and "With It," Unsure of What "It" Is
Obamacare's success depends on healthy young people signing up for it almost as much as it depends on the government's entire IT staff not going on a bender on website launch day. Problem is, on the Scale of Coolness, health insurance ranks somewhere between Hammer pants and Creed. To rectify this, a progressive group based in Colorado decided to change young minds across the country by way of a marketing campaign based on '90s college movies.
"Hey, teens, we also cover burns from pie fucking!"
The goal was for the photos to go viral on social media, and go viral they did -- though obviously not for the intended reasons.
If you need the ER after a fall from an 18-inch keg, you've got issues that brosurance can't possibly solve.
Aside from the above-pictured college douchebag demographic, their other audiences were "young adults, families, women, and minority groups," and each approach is just as laughable as the broticians and broctors up there. First we have this young lady, who, thanks to Obamacare, feels safe banging Mallrats-era Ben Affleck here:
"The only weird part is when we role-play and he insists on calling me Matt."
Then we have this one, apparently focused on middle-aged drunken lesbian workout fuck buddies.
"They are awkward and clumsy and have zero clue what they're doing. Be like them and exercise today!"
For a campaign focused on young people, it's fascinating that not a single person at the agency bothered to look up what the phrase "friends with benefits" means.
NYPD Tries Social Media on for Size, Citizens Paint Them a Virtual Hate Mural
The police aren't bad folks. Sure, there's the errant power-hungry asshole, but for the most part cops are solid community servants, and we should recognize their service. That's what the NYPD thought when they decided to launch the #myNYPD Twitter campaign, asking citizens to post pictures of themselves with their friendly neighborhood police officers. Selected photos would be posted on the NYPD's Facebook page. Likes include: Spider-Man, justice, and mustaches.
It all started out swimmingly ...
... but it didn't take long for the hashtag to turn ugly, and they started getting pictures like this instead:
Dislikes include: Rage Against the Machine, Freedom of Assembly, traditional titty twisters.
Within hours of requesting photos, #myNYPD had become a virtual mural of police aggression, with over 10,000 tweets per hour pouring in from over 110,000 tweeters. It became the top trending topic on Twitter, dethroning #justmorlockthings and #freemegatron.
The Mets immediately signed him to bat cleanup.
NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton blew the whole affair off, saying "I kind of welcome the attention" and "Oftentimes police activities are lawful, but look awful." We wonder what Bratton's rap name is.
Just be glad we didn't show the dude getting the "prostate exam."
The #myNYPD debacle snowballed across the country, inspiring #myLAPD, as well as counterparts in Seattle, San Francisco, and Denver. Sadly, none of those departments' commissioners approached their disintegrating public image with quite the lyrical levity of B Bratty.
J.P. Morgan's Twitter Q&A (Obviously) Turns Ugly
It's tough being a marketing shill for a major bank these days. Not only is your business pretty much indistinguishable from the competition, but everyone's all uppity about how your actions helped flush the entire world economy down the shitter or whatever.
Looking to create some engagement on social media, J.P. Morgan set up a Twitter Q&A with one of their high-level executives in order to allow the unwashed Internet masses brief access to one of their golden gods. What could possibly go wrong, other than everything?
New to the Internet, are we?
If it seems like a bad idea now, keep in mind that at the time of the Q&A, $JPM (or JPMoney, as the kids these days steadfastly refuse to call them) was right in the middle of their financial, legal, and moral "troubles." To be more specific, J.P. Morgan was under investigation by the Justice Department for eight shades of shadiness -- including bribery in Asia and a relationship with Bernie Madoff -- not to mention the fact that they were poised for a $13 billion settlement with Uncle Sam over mortgage securities fraud that may or may not have booted us into the deep end of the recession pool without so much as a pity floaty.
The response wasn't exactly of the "squealing fan girls watching the Beatles" level that the executives were hoping for.
More like "Mark David Chapman meets John Lennon."
It's baffling how anybody at the company thought, for even a split second, that this campaign would work out in their favor -- as one New York marketer put it in an interview with Seriously Obvious Advice Magazine: "If you're in the banking industry with what's happened over the last five years, it might not be a good idea to go out and solicit comments on social media." The bank realized their blunder and called the Q&A off within six hours of its announcement. On the upside, those six hours still hold the record for the highest FYPS (Fuck Yous Per Second) in human history.
"We now want everyone to submit a 500-word essay detailing what they would do if they
found our CEO handcuffed to his desk. Be creative!"
Related Reading: There are a lot of things social networking sites need to stop doing. Like claiming they need your private data to protect your private data. It's possible these things might even be bad for society. Cracked made that compelling case before. If you're curious as to how people in prison use social media, click here.