In 2012 some of the world’s biggest brands treated us to some truly spectacular blunders on social media.

My personal favourite was KitchenAid’s attack on President Obama’s dead grandmother, though the Swedish Tourist Board also deserves an honourable mention for its potty-mouthed, anti-Semitic tweets.

Thankfully brands haven’t learned from other’s mistakes so the social fails have continued apace in 2013.

Obviously it’s wrong to make fun of people’s mistakes and revel in their failures, but it’s also important to document social fails as a warning to others (sort of)...


The horsemeat scandal has been one of the biggest stories to hit the UK this year, and grocery giant Tesco was one of the most prominent villains/victims.

Food investigators found that horsemeat accounted for almost a third of its Everyday Value burgers, though to its credit Tesco did immediately take action to remove the products from its shelves.

Unfortunately its customer care team wasn’t quite as sharp, and had to issue a quick apology after failing to stop this pre-scheduled tweet from going out...

The Onion

The Onion’s satirical take on the day’s news often blurs the line between being edgy and just plain offensive, yet its owners tend to remain resolutely unapologetic.

However a tweet about nine-year-old actress Quvenzhane Wallis during the Oscars was deemed to be a step too far, and it’s not difficult to see why.

For those that can’t guess, the blur is hiding a four-letter word beginning with ‘C’.

The tweet caused a backlash on social media, forcing CEO Steve Hannah to issue a personal apology stating that the company was introducing new Twitter guidelines and would be “taking immediate steps to discipline this individuals responsible.”

Burger King and Jeep

Burger King and Jeep both lost control of their Twitter feeds after they were hacked by an unknown group.

The hackers changed Burger King's logo and profile name to McDonald’s, before tweeting that the company had been bought out by its competitor.

It then took a turn for the worse, with tweets about Burger King employees taking drugs and other offensive material.

The company regained control of the feed shortly afterwards, and hopefully reset the password. Unfortunately the hackers weren’t finished, and swiftly replaced Jeep’s logo on its Twitter feed with a Cadillac symbol.


Admittedly this example isn’t technically from this year, but it occurred during Christmas 2012 which I deem to be close enough.

The coffee brand displayed Twitter messages that used the hashtag #spreadthecheer on a big screen next to an ice rink at the Natural History Museum, but forgot to actually monitor what was being posted.

Coming hot on the heels of the scandal over Starbucks’ UK taxes, the wall unsurprisingly became a prime target for angry taxpayers...


HMV’s mistake wasn’t that it accidentally tweeted something offensive, but that it forgot who held the keys to its Twitter feed.

The troubled retailer was forced to layoff thousands of staff after going into administration earlier this year, which obviously annoyed a lot of its employees.

One of them then decided to take out their anger by live tweeting a meeting with HR where 60 staff members were informed that they were being sacked.

Using the hashtag #hmvXFactorFiring the employee first announced that a “mass execution” was taking place, before revealing that the marketing director had a limited knowledge of social media and that the Twitter account was initially established by an unpaid intern.

Thanks to Gizmodo for the screenshot...

David Moth

Published 6 March, 2013 by David Moth

David Moth is Editor and Head of Social at Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn

1719 more posts from this author

You might be interested in

Comments (2)


Nick Stamoulis

I remember reading about HMV and was floored! You better make sure you know who has access to your social profiles before you start firing people. In fact, better make sure you know who has access to your social profiles at all times since it seems like employees are confusing the company accounts for their private ones.

over 5 years ago


Chris OxCopy Hogan

To keep up with the best (worst?) examples of inane and botched commercial social media one can do no better, imho, than watch Condescending Corporate Brand Page on Facebook.

over 5 years ago

Save or Cancel

Enjoying this article?

Get more just like this, delivered to your inbox.

Keep up to date with the latest analysis, inspiration and learning from the Econsultancy blog with our free Digital Pulse newsletter. You will receive a hand-picked digest of the latest and greatest articles, as well as snippets of new market data, best practice guides and trends research.