20 biggest marketing blunders of 2012

18/12/2012

Everyone makes mistakes- but some mistakes are bigger than others. From Apple's wonky maps to Yahoo's boss being fired over alleged 'fake CV claims'- this year saw plenty of high-profile digital disasters. As part of our 2012 review, we salute those campaigns, companies and people that slipped up in spectacular fashion- providing ample warning to us all to sanity-check digital strategies, proof-read hashtags and always use common sense...

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This year provided rich pickings in terms of digital disasters. Facebook's IPO was tipped to be the dotcom success story of the year, but quickly descended into accusations of insider trading, fake likes and high-profile advertisers doubting the social network's value as an ad platform.

Google and Apple didn't get off lightly either. Google managed to wipe $20bn off their market value overnight, releasing bad financial results early, while Apple's 'Inception-style' maps only helped highlight how much its users rely on rival's services and the advantages of an open internet.

Zynga was riding high at the start of the year, but its hasty decision to buy Draw Something maker Omgpop for a cool $180m, only to see its user figures drop off a cliff a month later led to a rocky year for the social games maker.

Some mistakes tested the phrase 'there's no such thing as bad publicity'- arguably helping promote their respective brands despite bungling their marketing message. Bic's 'Pens For Her' range resulted in some spectacularly sarcastic reviews on Amazon, while Waitrose and Subo ran afoul of Twitter with rather poorly planned hashtag campaigns.

View our pick of the 20 biggest digital marketing blunders below:

Worst QR code adverts: New blog highlights perils of mobile barcodes
12/03/2012
Quick Response (QR) codes are growing in popularity, but they are appearing in increasingly bizarre and inappropriate places, as this new blog shows. The Tumblr blog WTF QR Codes has grown in popularity in recent weeks, allowing users to submit bad examples of QR codes (barcodes that can be scanned via smartphone cameras to reveal online information and offers).

Pens envy? Bic 'For Her' range prompts wave of sarcastic Amazon reviews
30/08/2012
Bic’s ‘For Her’ range of pens have become the latest target of mockery from Amazon reviewers. The pens feature pink and purple colours, small diamond etchings and "a thin barrel designed to fit a women's hand," according to the description on Amazon.com. Since its launch at the end of last year, the product’s Amazon page has been bombarded with hundreds of reviewers ridiculing the concept of a women-only pen range, aiming to undermine what some have called a sexist marketing endeavour.

Waitrose Twitter contest prompts wave of middle class jokes
21/09/2012
A Twitter campaign from Waitrose has become the subject of ridicule this week, once again sparking the debate as to whether there’s ‘no such thing as bad publicity’ on social media. The John Lewis owned firm invited Twitter customers to finish the sentence ‘I shop at Waitrose because…’, asking them to include the hashtag “#WaitroseReasons”. Within hours the hashtag was being mocked on the social network. Two Twitter posts ridiculed Waitrose by saying that the upmarket shop was the best place to pick up unicorn food and 24ct gold thread toilet paper.

Twitter hashtag disaster: Susan Boyle trends for all the wrong reasons
Singer and former Britain’s Got Talent contestant Susan Boyle unknowingly invited the general public to her 'Bum Party' via Twitter after a PR hashtag malfunction.The singer's management put out a tweet to encourage fans to buy her brand new album 'Standing Ovation'.

Microsoft apologises after Windows Phone speed challenge backfires
29/03/2012
Microsoft has apologised after initially refusing to reward a tech writer who "smoked" a Windows Phone using an Android handset, as part of a new in-store competition to promote its new smartphone range. Microsoft has now rewarded a new laptop and Windows Phone to Sahas Katta, the CEO of Skatter Tech CEO, who used an Android phone to beat a Nokia Lumia during a "Smoked by Windows Phone" challenge.

Yahoo boss quits amid 'fake CV' claims
14/05/2012
Yahoo's Chief Executive Officer Scott Thompson has stepped down after just four months at the helm, following claims his CV featured a computer science degree that he never received. After a board meeting the company announced that Thompson would be immediately replaced by former News Corp executive Ross Levinsohn.

Apple faces backlash over new iPhone mapping technology
21/09/2012
Apple’s new mapping technology, which replaces Google Maps, has come under fire from users and businesses alike for a myriad of inaccuracies and misplaced landmarks. Amongst a wide range of complaints surfacing on Facebook and Twitter include missing towns (Stratford-upon-Avon and Solihull), wrong locations (Uckfield in East Sussex) and satellite images of various locations, particularly in Scotland, being obscured by cloud. Some smaller roads and lanes do not even have road names and numbers in the UK. There is also no built-in information about public transportation.

Was General Motors getting Facebook marketing wrong? Ford thinks so
21/05/2012

Last week, General Motors pulled all of its $10 ad budget from Facebook citing the ‘ineffectiveness of paid ads.’ But some analysts, and rival car-maker Ford, have been quick to jump to the social network’s defence, implying that GM wasn’t getting the most it could from the platform. The shock decision from GM came ahead of Facebook's historic $104bn IPO, and has caused jitters in the marketing community, with some analysts fearing that other big brands could follow suit. But this is apparently not the case if bigger rival Ford is anything to go by.

Facebook IPO fiasco- social network faces lawsuits as share prices plunge
24/05/2012
Facebook's short life as a public company has been tumultuous, with its share prices plunging by about 13% on Tuesday. This means that its founder Mark Zuckerberg, who made $19bn on Friday, has lost $2.055bn in the three days since. Now the social network is facing lawsuits amid accusations of insider trading.

Google forced to change ‘catch-all’ privacy policy by EU regulators
17/10/2012
Google has been forced to change its controversial privacy policy by European Union regulators after it was criticised over its collection of internet users’ personal information. In a letter to the firm’s chief executive Larry Page yesterday, an EU data protection commissioner said that Google “empowers itself to collect vast amounts of personal data about Internet users” without demonstrating that this “collection was proportionate”.

Google shock sales slowdown: Shares suspended after results blunder
19/10/2012
Google saw nearly $20bn wiped off its market value in minutes yesterday, after third quarter earnings figures released prematurely by mistake revealed a surprise drop in profit growth. The web giant reported a 20% drop in net income to $2.18bn (£1.36bn) between July and September. But the announcement, which was expected after the market close, was released early after financial printer RR Donnelley filed a draft of its earnings statement without authorisation on Thursday morning.

Facebook admits nearly 9% of profiles 'could be fake'
03/08/2012
Facebook has revealed that 83 million of its accounts could be fake, accounting for nearly 9% of its total users, as the social network comes under increasing pressure to meet advertiser and shareholder demands.

O2 leaking customers’ mobile numbers to every website visited?
26/01/2012
O2 is facing a privacy backlash from users after reports emerged that the company was sharing subscribers' mobile numbers to websites they visit over a 3G connection. The info leak was highlighted yesterday by O2 customer Lewis Peckover, who set up a web tool that displays all the HTTP header information sent to sites by connecting web browsers.

Big Brother Facebook fiasco: C5 to refund credits after social media vote failure
07/03/2012
Channel 5 has agreed to refund Big Brother viewers that lost out on the broadcaster’s Facebook voting scheme last year. The move comes after UK media watchdog Ofcom upheld complaints that viewers that had purchased Facebook credits to vote on the show’s contestants were unable to use them at certain times.

ASA bans Nike Twitter ad featuring Wayne Rooney
21/06/2012
The UK's Advertising Standards Authority has banned a Nike Twitter campaign, featuring a Tweet from Wayne Rooney using the brand’s slogan. The campaign also featured Arsenal player Jack Wilshere, who posted at the request of the sportswear firm. The UK's advertising watchdog said that the messages did not make clear they were "identifiable as marketing communications". The move marks the first time the ASA has acted against a Twitter-based campaign.

Microsoft posts first ever loss after £6bn online ad flop
20/07/2012
Microsoft has posted a loss of $492 million in the past quarter, the first ever for the software giant, as results were hit by a previously announced writeoff for its online ad business aQuantive. The software company, which was launched 26 years ago, had warned two weeks ago that it would take a $6.2bn (£3.9bn) charge in the April to June quarter because its 2007 purchase of online ad service aQuantive had failed to help it compete with Google.

Judge rejects Facebook’s settlement offer for putting users’ faces in ads
21/08/2012
A US judge has rejected Facebook's proposed legal settlement to resolve allegations that the social networking company violated its members' rights through the its 'Sponsored Stories' ad feature. The lawsuit follows complaints that Facebook was using people’s photos in ads without their permission. The feature took users' photos and used their faces in Facebook's in-site ads for brands after they had merely clicked the "thumbs-up" button and "Liked" the company.

Branding clampdown hands non-sponsors Olympic-sized marketing boost
31/07/2012
LOCOG’s attempts to protect sponsors could be diverting attention to their fiercest rivals, data from global information services company Experian shows. UK traffic to the websites of Pepsi and Nike had been declining in volume in the lead up to the games, while those of London 2012 Partners Adidas and Coca-Cola saw substantial rises. However, the trend reversed this weekend following widespread reporting that the brand clampdown could mean that visitors to the games who displayed the logos of non-sponsor firms could be barred from entry.

Blogger reviews in social media marketing - Samsung breaks regulations?
04/09/2012
Samsung may be the latest multinational to break digital marketing regulations by trying to manipulate blogger reviews in social media marketing through secret payments to bloggers. Positive ratings and reviews have a big impact on sales, but many brands are forgetting both regulations and common sense.

From social to mobile: Zynga snaps up mobile game maker Omgpop
26/03/2012
Farmville creator Zynga has bought Omgpop, as the Farmville creator looks to expand beyond its Facebook platform and into mobile games. New York-based Omgpop rose into prominence six weeks ago when it released Draw Something, currently the top title on Apple’s App Store. Omgpop was formed in 2006 and already has 35 mobile games on the market.

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