7 Iconic Companies That Publicly Lost Their Minds
Social media is still a relatively new phenomenon, and a ton of major companies are still playing catch-up on how to "communicate" or "LOL" "online." Which is why it should come as no surprise when the people (or trained marmosets, in some cases) in charge of handling corporate Twitter accounts bumblefuck all over their keyboards every now and then.
A Company Saw The Death Of Paul Walker As An Opportunity To Sell Car Insurance
The Fast & Furious franchise will never be remembered as a gleaming beacon of cinematic genius, but the seemingly endless succession of sequels, with their ever-escalating, over-the-top bombardment of testosterone-driven vehicular insanity, has built up a considerable fanbase over the years. And when Paul Walker met his ironic end in the wreck of a Porsche Carrera GT, it left a great many people both shocked and grief-stricken. Many unanswered questions arose in the immediate aftermath of the sad event, up to and including "Did he get a good deal on his car insurance?"
Vulturistic opportunism in the wake of tragedy is nothing new in the annals of marketing, but rarely do you see a more public, shitty, and shameless example than this. When the car insurance quote company 4AutoinsuranceQuote.com took to Twitter to promote their wares in the vilest way possible, it wasn't an isolated incident in which they immediately hit the delete button and summarily executed their social media manager. Nope, they kept firing off brotastic variations on the idea to every news agency and celebrity site they could think of.
Whoever wrote this lost 15 percent or more of their soul every time they clicked "send."
Not to mention this little gem, which was sent directly to Walker's official Twitter account:
Paul never responded. Wonder why.
It was the type of grotesque behavior that would seem excessive in a David Fincher movie, and, needless to say, people were not amused. The furor was deflected momentarily when the editor of Jezebel, Erin Gloria Ryan, took the tastelessness out of the realm of commerce and into politics when she Tweeted "Why couldn't it be Scott Walker?" but at least she had the decency to quickly delete and apologize. However, 4AutoinsuranceQuote.com's immediate reaction was to ignore any and all queries (which could have allayed suspicions of their having been collectively assimilated by hostile space reptiles), and leave all the offending tweets firmly in place.
Upon investigation, it does appear that at some point, the tsunami of callous insensitivity was finally (and presumably begrudgingly) scrubbed from their account. All except for this one:
The fact that they seem to believe that sentient, overworked cars are murdering the populace actually explains a lot.
Epicurious Honored Boston Marathon Victims With Pastry Recipes
The Boston Marathon bombing of 2013 was a horrible, senseless tragedy. But in a way similar to our immediate and collective reaction following the events of 9/11, the incident provided the entire nation with a rallying point around which to ignore our differences for a brief moment and stand united against the scourge of radical terrorism. It was also the perfect time to jump on Twitter to peddle a few recipes for some tasty-ass cranberry scones!
"Stay tuned for some tasty dishes you can prepare at home with a few unattended pressure cookers!"
Let's try to get into the head of whoever at Epicurious was responsible for this world-class display of dumbfuckery for a moment. First, we can probably rule out the possibility of this being the work of some dickhead robot, because even the most callous machine wouldn't follow up "Our hearts are with everyone in Boston" (which was sent out right before the sales pitch) with an attempt to get the grieving citizenry to buy their half-assed biscuit instructions. This also eliminates any alibi of the incident being an honest mistake, like when DiGiorno accidentally blundered into a conversation about domestic violence.
At least they weren't handing out their "It's not delivery, it's Digiorno!" fliers at abortion clinics.
Nope, this was on par with when the folks at Kenneth Cole tried to take advantage of unrest in the Middle East by passing along this little gem: "Millions are in uproar in #Cairo. Rumor is they heard our new spring collection is now available online!" Admirably, whoever was in charge of the Epicurious Twitter division that day did finally figure out that some apologizing was in order. But unfortunately, the way they decided to accomplish that was by banging their head on the return key like an enraged chimp, sending the same "cookie-cutter" message out over and over and over and over:
"All work and no play gives me a hankerin' for some gluten-free panini!"
A more sincere "oops, we fucked up" announcement did finally arrive, albeit far too late to keep the wolves of online outrage at bay. And one can only imagine how difficult it must have been for them to express their "deepest, sincere apologies" without at least a brief mention of pizza crust options.
Nestle Got Into A Flame War With Animal Rights Activists On Facebook
The executives at the Nestle corporation are essentially the real-life Willy Wonkas, in that they've long been providing wondrously delicious products for all of us to enjoy while simultaneously being responsible for society's overabundance of Augustus Gloops. They're also highly protective of their brand, and not averse to taking immediate action when some uppity online poster has the audacity to use some version of their company logo as an avatar.
A few years ago, Nestle's Facebook page (which looks more like an ad for a 4H summer camp than a chocolate and nougat concern) made an announcement that anyone who showed up with an altered variant of their nesting birds symbol (or that of any of their scrumptious wares) ran the risk of having their comments deleted. You'd think they would have found such imitation flattering, but one might also understand how they were justifiably miffed when people started photoshopping "Killer" onto candy wrappers ...
... Or when Kit Kat bars began to be replaced by the severed fingers of presumably-murdered orangutans:
They had to find some way of competing with Mars' new "Twix with Dix."
What was going on here was a Greenpeace protest, and the issue currently getting members of the environmental organization's ponytails into knots was over how Nestle's use of palm oil was contributing to the destruction of the Indonesian rainforest. It was a situation that required delicate diplomacy, and in order for Nestle to avoid coming off like an unfeeling, sugary leviathan of greed, the PR folks merely needed to display at least the pretense of sympathy and tact. Unfortunately, the individual they assigned to carry out this mission responded with the grace of a grumpy Bill Murray recovering from a hangover.
"Pick any one of the birds in my avatar, and imagine he's doing a flip, just for you."
True, whoever was in charge of the Nestle Facebook account that day probably wasn't expecting to wake up to a wall of monkey genocide accusations. Only the richest of dentists get that kind of social media hatred. And deleting comments from your company's Facebook page is hardly a First Amendment violation (no part of the First Amendment requires private companies and/or citizens to provide a forum for others). However, most successful businesses agree that the answer to dealing with catastrophic PR situations isn't "weary sarcasm." Heck, even an insensitive brick wall of silence would have been preferable here. Yet the unnamed public face of the Nestle brand was compelled to insert catty remarks at every opportunity, like a hipster on his laptop at Starbucks trying to defend the merits of his favorite shitty band.
Don't forget the "not" when whining online later about how you do not have a job anymore.
The fallout from the debacle led to a firestorm on Twitter, and Nestle wound up acquiescing to the demands of the eco-warriors by adapting their policies so that fewer apes would be forced to hit the Indonesian road, hobo-style. As for whoever it was behind the wheel of the careening Facebook company bus that day? We have no idea what happened to him or her, or to what remote jungle caramel harvesting operation they were presumably exiled in penance for their sassmouth violations.
"And please allow me to express my sincere condolences to the orangutans,
who have graciously agreed to stop sending me images of themselves angrily masturbating."
Verizon Responds To A Federal Ruling In Morse Code
When The Federal Communications Commision (FCC) took a break from policing the radio for accidental f-bombs and voted to adopt Title II regulations last year, net neutrality advocates were ecstatic. There were also those who felt that the decision to hand a bloated bureaucracy the power to regulate internet infrastructure was a blatant example of governmental overreach. And at least one guy contended that FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler was merely doing his duty as Obama's "butt boy."
"Butt Czar" is the more socially acceptable term.
Emotions ran high on both sides of the issue, is what we're saying, but nobody's wig was quite so flipped as that of the executives over at Verizon, who chose to protest this "throwback" measure by issuing a smudged press release that appeared to have been prepared on an old-school typewriter, and dating it February 26, 1934. But the ferociously snide passive-aggression didn't end there, as they then issued the same statement on their corporate blogs entirely in the language of World War II battleships.
It's either that or a visual representation of Verizon's shitty broadband connections.
You don't really see Morse code much nowadays outside of Battle of the Bulge reenactments and North Korean artillery units. But it's still the perfect medium for tantruming telecommunications leviathans, should the need arise for venting about rules that hark back "to the era of the steam locomotive and the telegraph." Realizing that their average shareholder probably hasn't undergone intensive SIGINT training, at least they were considerate enough to include the addendum: "Readers living in the 21st century can read the translated statement here."
"And if any of you yellow-bellied FCC varmints are up for a showdown at high noon tomorrow,
forward your letter of compliance to 1095 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY."
Despite all the wailing and the doomsaying, Verizon hasn't been averse to using the new regulations in order to turn a few extra bucks. And as far as we can tell, they haven't as yet started giving subscribers the option to pay for their services in Confederate dollars to protest the situation.
Swedish Tourism Decides To Give Their Citizens An (Insane And Racist) Voice
History has shown that when companies hand over the reins of their marketing endeavors to random, unvetted goofballs, the end result usually ranges from embarrassing to hilariously catastrophic. So we can only assume that Sweden's tourism department spent so long relying solely on the drawing power of their world-famous bikini team that they felt no need to take a lesson from the mistakes of their predecessors. Which might explain why they saw no problems going forward with a Twitter campaign called "Curators of Sweden," in which every week, a new citizen would have the opportunity to share their views in order to "showcase the country's diverse thoughts and opinions."
The only way you can be sure is to jerk them vigorously to see if shekels come pouring out.
When it came time for a 27-year-old mother of two named "Sonja" to take her turn at the government-sponsored Internet open mic night, for some reason, she decided that the best way "to show the diversity in the country's population" was via some good old-fashioned Nordic anti-Semitism. And who exactly is "Sonja," you might be wondering? Is her ignorance due to the fact she grew up in the woods and spent her childhood skinning bears for meat? Apparently, yes. Her full name is Sonja Abrahamsson, and she's a hoot:
Now you'd think that with a name like "Abrahamsson," she might be a little more sensitive toward members of the tribe. But while many condemned her unenlightened rantings (which included a Freddie Mercury AIDS joke) as the work of a bigoted idiot, others praised her for her "frank and honest opinions." Such as:
"Once my 4-year-old found marijuana and porn in my bicycle-wagon. I keep that wagon in our basement. That was a little odd wasn't it?"
"In English you say 'balls' about someone who is brave. In Sweden we say 'labia.' Example: 'You surely showed some real heroic labia there.'"
So she's Sharon Stone in Basic Instinct, only less murderous but somehow more crazy.
We can't verify the validity of any of those statements, and there's nothing inherently wrong with posting them, but it doesn't exactly scream "Spend your next vacation in Sweden!" That is, unless the VisitSweden marketing director intended for the next part of that slogan to read "We're way more shithouse bonkers than the Danes!"
Sonja did express regret for any hurt feelings that may have resulted from her unbridled Hebrew-related tangents, and explained that because she grew up in the hinterlands, she never got to know any Jewish people. She stated that being offensive was not her purpose at all, and that the whole controversy came about simply because "I just don't get why some people hates jews so much." And furthermore, according to this Hitlerrific interview with Gizmodo, she is a frequent victim of misunderstandings like this:
"They believe I'm living a secret Nazi life, planning to take over Europe. This is because I've got the tattoo 'hej hej' in my neck. That means 'hello hello.' But from a distance it kind of looks like a 'SS.' That was a mistake though."
Airbnb Channels Their Inner Psycho Killer
To start things off here, let's contemplate this series of Tweets for a moment. And so you don't go running off screaming to the authorities, we promise this is not in fact the work of an escaped convict in a dirty clown costume, or someone who's punching the following text into his phone with his hook hand while crouched down in the bushes outside your back window and licking a bloodstained machete:
"Cook and eat their mother, so you may love them as she did."
Now go ahead and double check all the locks in the house. We understand. But that is not a collection of excerpts from the recently-released , but a word-for-word transcript of a TV commercial. Was it a promo for a new psychosexual crime drama on TNT? Nope, the assemblage of thinly-veiled homicidal madness up there comes from an ad for a bed and breakfast company.
Here's the commercial itself (which easily be interpreted as a NAMBLA promo, for all the sense it makes):
Specifically, it's part of an ad campaign by Airbnb (the website for those who like that extra air of nervous uncertainty in their choice of lodging) called "Mankind." And as little as that commercial did to explain exactly what the hell their business was about, when they transferred the dialog over to a series of progressively ominous Tweets, it came off less like an ad for weekend getaways than it did a pretrial deposition by Norman Bates.
"The ga-ga's are coming from inside the house!"
And in terms of attracting customers, the ploy clearly violated one of the first rules of Salesmanship 101: "Don't creep customers the fuck out."
It's hard to sell people on a bed and breakfast where their bones might be used to build the bed.
If anything, the campaign made people realize how dicey the prospect of renting out a room in any old God-knows-who "Are those voices coming from the crawlspace?"'s house can be. However, although the majority of Airbnb's Twitter followers responded to the ad by expressing their profound existential dread, at least we got some quality parodies out of the whole debacle:
If you run across a B&B that request that you "bring your own lotion," it may not be as sexy as it sounds.
Tinder Has A Twitter Meltdown Over Being Called A Hookup App
Ah, Tinder. The go-to source for those looking to arrange meaningless sex with randos without (as yet) all the murdery associations of Craigslist. It is what it is, we suppose. But what Tinder thinks of itself is a little different from the popular perception. At least, according to whoever was put in charge of their Twitter account last summer, the company isn't just a sex line for the new millennium. No siree Bob, their $9.99-per-month ($19.99 if you're older than 29) app is about "meaningful connections." And if you say any different, they'll bombard your ass with nonsense until you submit like a 31-year-old actress playing a babysitter in a YouPorn video.
They may be on to something, considering they're acting like someone who really needs to get laid.
The above sampling represents a small percentage of the "tweetstorm" that came in the wake of a Vanity Fair article called "Tinder And The Dawn Of The Dating Apocalypse." The piece explored the ugly realities of "hookup culture" and came to the conclusion that romance is becoming a thing of the past, and that "apps like Tinder are part of the problem."
In rebuttal, the person manning the helm over at Tinder Twitter Command commenced to issuing forth a lengthy, indignant dissertation, 140 characters at a time. The cavalcade of messages (which, when totaled up, nearly matched the size of the offending article) appeared to angrily refute the implication that their product was basically the online version of writing your name and number on the wall of a public toilet, which came as a bit of a surprise to the majority of people who use Tinder.
In other news, Tropicana has announced that its annual wet T-shirt competition
to promote breast cancer awareness will proceed as scheduled.
Once whoever was pounding keys at Tinder HQ finally got it out of their system (or the morning shift showed up and dragged them away to the Tinder reprogramming facility), an admission was made that they "overreacted." They still don't consider themselves a "hit it and quit it" type of operation, and maybe we should give them some credit. After all, there aren't many apps out these that allow you the opportunity, however slim, to hook up with Agent Cody Bank's Hilary Duff.
For more high-profile companies failing spectacularly, check out The 5 Most Disastrous Marketing Failures of All Time and 5 Spectacularly Crazy Meltdowns by CEOs of Major Companies.
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