Facebook, Twitter, direct messaging, email blasts; the list goes on. In today’s digital age, there are a million different ways for a brand to communicate with their consumers. On the flip side though, brands now have a million different ways they can mess up in the eyes of their consumers. That’s the glass half empty mentality speaking but the sentiment still remains true.

When an idea or statement can be published so effortlessly, it makes it easy for a brand to say the wrong thing at the wrong time. And while brands are always ready to execute the “DELETE IT NOW” failsafe, we all know by now that the Internet never forgets.

Beyond that, it’s the pack mentality of these booming social services that seal the deal for clumsy brands. The smallest slip-up will spread like wild fire with the help of our favourite social medium’s trending algorithm. And come on, who doesn’t love a good #BrandFail?

It’s these cringe-inducing moments that make us rethink each tweet before posting and each public statement before making a declaration. For those of us, this blog post is for you. Revel in these fails knowing that it wasn’t you, but always remember, it could be.

What inspired this post was a recent controversy created by an airport parking reservations service – not your typical culprit, I know. Earlier this month, a man was found dead in an airport parking lot. With no signs of homicide, the death was deemed a possible suicide. A tragedy in its own right, it was the statement that followed which caused the real shock.


Airport Parking Reservations took a fatal opportunity to do a little self-promotion. In an email to subscribers, Airport Parking Reservations implied trouble finding a parking spot as the stress induced cause of death. The email went on to offer a $5 off coupon to readers as a means to not end up deceased.

And as if that wasn’t already offensive enough, Airport Parking Reservations capped off the promo by rhyming “Don’t be late and end up in a crate”. Talk about morbid.

Despite the obvious “no, no, no, oh god no” reactions we all had, the folks at Airport Parking Reservations apparently thought this would be a killer promotion – sorry, I had to. It appears as though Airport Parking Reservations just learnt the old adage, “all press is good press”.

It’s the same thoughtlessness that leads to the always terrible 9/11 tweets from brands. While it proves to be a challenge navigating the waters of such a worldwide tragedy, brands still end up making the same mistakes time and time again.

AT&T can certainly vouch for that. Last year, the brand took the cake for ill-received 9/11 tweets when they tweeted a photo of a smartphone displaying the Tribute of Light, two beams of light symbolizing the twin towers.


AT&T used the tragedy as an opportunity to market themselves and their products. All too often this tactic is employed, only to be meet with offensive and threats of boycotts. Considering the clear road to success, it’s disappointing so many brands fall victim to associating clueless marketing ploys with 9/11.

All any brand has to do is be sincere. Send out a “God bless America” or “Never Forget” tweet accompanied by a photo of tribute or inspiration. It’s really that simple. Don’t add a 25% off coupon or product to it – just be genuine. This isn’t about your brand; this is about remembrance.

That’s not to say all brands handle tragedies on social media poorly; some go about it with class and dignity. It’s the brands that treat social media like a playground, disregarding its importance, that take the cake.

You may remember a few weeks back when the #WhyIStayed hashtag was trending. Used to spread awareness about the difficulties of leaving an abusive relationship, #WhyIStayed was being attached to personal messages from victims who had the courage to tell their story. Except in the case of DiGiorno Pizza.


Joking that victims stayed in abusive relationships for pizza probably wasn’t their intention. Social media isn’t a comedy club, what you say can and will be used against you.

In a refreshing twist, DiGiorno did the admirable thing by owning up to the mistake, citing a lack of actually knowing the context of the hashtag. DiGiorno even apologized *individually* to all those affected by their tweet. A mess up is a mess up but at least they had the integrity to personally make amends.

All we can hope for with the continuing boom of social media is that brands take the time to utilize them correctly. Our digital age has allowed for more meaningful communication between brand and consumer than ever before. Savvy brands would be wise to use these examples as how-not-to’s in their future marketing endeavours.

And if they don’t, hey, at least people like me get some more #BrandFail’s to laugh about.