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The worst social media and hashtag marketing fails of 2015

Social media marketing is one of those things that digital marketing firms love and hate at the same time. On one hand, the rise of social media usage has led to a thing called “hashtag marketing,” which is a very effective (and affordable) digital marketing strategy that inherently works well on mobile devices. Considering that 67% of mobile phone users regularly check their phones for messages, and one-third of internet users go online primarily via their smartphones, it’s no surprise that four out of five smartphone owners use their phones to shop. Therefore, successful mobile and social media marketing is tightly connected to better sales.

So with the end of the year upon us, we figure it’s a good time to indulge in some Schadenfreude and take a look at some social media campaigns and hashtag marketing attempts that really, really failed:

Starbucks and the Race Together Campaign
It’s always a good idea to develop your digital marketing campaign around a meaningful cause, like eco-friendliness or providing books to schoolchildren. But Starbucks learned this year that its customers really don’t want to be lectured on the problem of racial tensions when grabbing a coffee. #RaceTogether was a very short-lived campaign in 2015.

Lesson learned: Some issues are a bit too serious to be used in a casual marketing campaign, especially if these issues aren’t related to your product at all.

Harriet Harman and the Pink Bus
You may not have heard about this one; to be fair, Harriet Harman is a politician in the U.K., and her political campaign mishap occurred nearly a year ago. The Labor Party deputy leader decided to tour 70 cities across the U.K. to encourage women to vote in the upcoming elections. To make her “Woman to Woman” campaign a bit more approachable, she decided to ride through the country in a bright pink mini-bus.

Lesson learned: Women aren’t necessarily attracted to pink like moths to a light. Campaign colors matter more than most people think! Also, #pinkbus is not a hashtag trend you want to be associated with anymore.

Bud Light Is Still #UpForWhatever
In an attempt to salvage its dwindling brand while the craft beer culture continues to grow, Bud Light created a hashtag marketing campaign using the phrase #UpForWhatever. It was supposed to be a “lighthearted” way of making beer casual again — the drink for the man who is down-to-earth, frugal, and simple. Unfortunately, Bud Light began using the hashtag a bit frivolously, and many people noted that the messages seemed to condone sexual harassment. “On #StPatrickDay you can pinch people who don’t wear green. You can also pinch people who aren’t #UpForWhatever,” the company tweeted in March. Just a few weeks later, bottles appeared on the shelves with labels that read “The perfect beer for removing ‘no’ from your vocabulary for the night.”

Lesson learned: Choose your words carefully. Also, if a social media campaign fails, it’s best to let it go.

Of course, this is only the beginning of some terrible marketing from 2015. What terrible marketing campaigns stand out on your list, and why? We’d love to hear from you!

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