Marketing initiatives that backfired on social media

Saloni Surti
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Remember when a mischief backfired and fellow classmates tattled about you to your teacher. Well, now it’s social media – the ultimate teacher to whom everyone complains about unethical and unsolicited moves pulled off by a brand or a personality.

The double edged sword called social media has often slashed the jugular of many brands as an after-effect of a marketing gimmick gone wrong. From backlash on campaigns to other initiatives that worked against the brand – Twitter has seen outrage of all kinds. There is a lot to be learnt from these instances to avoid crisis and make the best out of your marketing budget.

Dell’s ambush marketing

Dell Technologies and Hewlett Packard Enterprises have been arch rivals in the technology sector. Dell Acquired EMC on September 7th and became the largest privately owned Tech company in the world, while HPE sold off its Software division to Micro Focus in order to lean out to a more focused approach towards its core business.

Meg Whitman and Michael Dell have been talking in various interviews about the opposing strategies of Dell and HPE.

Where Meg says it’s time to be more focused in this dynamic market, Michael Dell wants to make Dell a complete solution offering a wide range of services.

Dell decided to take their rivalry with HPE to the next level, when the former tried to hijack HPE’s Partner First Conference by sending men covered in from head to toe in black, holding huge balloons that carried Dell and EMC brand or claims about the firm’s number one position in product sectors.



International media soon picked up this incautious guerilla marketing technique; their article gained traction on Twitter and was soon followed by Kerry Bailey from HPE replying on Twitter which quickly gained traction.

Larry Walsh, a Tech Influencer also posted about this strategy of Dell as an utter wastage of marketing money.

The ambush marketing initiative soon got the twitterverse talking about Dell in a negative light costed Dell goodwill and status on social media.

ScrollDroll – Myntra

The duo landed in a soup when ScrollDroll posted a creative taking a dig at Janmashtmi, while featuring Myntra in it. The creative invited flak with users crying foul over demeaning an auspicious occasion. With religion being a sensitive topic in India, ScrollDroll took the risk of treading along a very thin line, dragging Myntra with it.


While both the brands cleared the air about Myntra nothing to have no association with the creative, the content created negative sentiment on social media.


When Infibeam, an online shopping brand decided to go out with an IPO, Infibeam ‘supporters’ started cropping up across Twitter, lauding the e-commerce brand’s decision. #WeSupportInfibeam and #InfibeamShining soon started trending on Twitter.



The campaign however, invited a lot of backlash since influencers not even remotely connected to finance were supporting and praising the IPO. #InfibeamShining brought to light the misuse of influencer outreach in getting a hashtag to trend.

Consumers are no longer passive audience who observe while you narrate a story, they’re active and aware and will cry foul as soon as they notice it. For instance, spending a chunk of marketing budget on hampering competitor’s event, is the kind of a gimmick that consumers will call out too. In this case Dell’s marketing initiative backfired nullifying the objective of their initiative all together.

Social media is one of the most tangible communication points of a brand with their consumers – whether you chose to communicate with them on this platform or no, they will. They will share, complain, and laud – all at the same time. Brands now need to be over cautious about their marketing monies – investing them in a wrong initiative could actually take your brand two steps back.

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