Content Marketing Horror Stories: 5 Common Mistakes to Avoid

Content Marketing Horror Stories: 5 Common Mistakes to Avoid

Indago Digital has rounded up a series of faux pas from recent high-profile campaigns to help you avoid falling into the same trap when investing your time, money and resources into digital channels.

Written by

Brid Flynn


9 November 2016





With Halloween just around the corner, we have been discussing the things that send a chill down our spine, one such item being the ghastly errors of content marketing that come back to haunt companies operating in the digital sphere.
In an age where digital marketing places a premium on content marketing to benefit both search engines and the end user, the techniques and methodology deployed to develop and execute this discipline are under more scrutiny than ever to get right.
When a campaign goes beyond expectations – whether to achieve brand awareness, customer education or leads – it sets a fine example for the industry to sit up and learn from.
Not all content marketing campaigns are carried out to a T; many horror stories can testify to that.

1. Krispy Kreme: A social media scare-fest

The goal was simple: promote a series of planned events for school children during half term. The result was catastrophic. One UK Krispy Kreme franchise took to social media with an event called KKK Wednesday without considering the connotations of those three letters used in sequence.

The post was swiftly taken down, but not before catching the eye of several key media influencers and an angry public mob. In a worst-case scenario reaction, people uploaded photoshopped images of Klu Klux Klan members with Krispy Kreme doughnuts to mock the brand for its insensitivity.

Research your brand material before you include it in a hero campaign, as it may carry underlying messages that cause uproar.

2. Reebok: Cold-blooded murder of brand values

Reebok’s attempts to align itself with the ‘hip’ or ‘streetwise’ consumer has a long and chequered history; one moment that the brand will want to forget is the collaboration with rap celebrity 50 Cent, who endorsed a footwear launch through the medium of YouTube. The ad (now removed) featured 50 Cent referring to being shot nine times.

The content breached guidelines in its alleged glorification of deadly violence.

Mud sticks, so choose your themes carefully and understand the backgrounds and cultural context of the influencers with whom you build your brand.

3. NYPD: When hashtags come back to haunt you

New York in 2014, the NYPD went forth with a public relations campaign to forge a closer relationship with local communities whilst demonstrating cops in a good light. Users were asked to post selfies with a police officer on Twitter – what could possibly go wrong?

Instead of the anticipated cheery photo gallery, most uploads documented public members being harassed or abused. To put this in context, NYPD retweeted only 5 of the images from the user-generated campaign.

The lesson here is to cover all angles to include a crisis management strategy to counteract the possibility of any media backlash. If you’re brave enough to invite social media opinions, expect the unexpected.

4. Miracle Mattresses: Deadly sins of small business

No matter how badly you want your brand to be heard, don’t alienate and offend your customers by making rash decisions. Miracle Mattresses ignored this advice when it produced a promotion to celebrate the ‘falling’ prices of mattresses to coincide with the 15th anniversary of 9/11. The TV spot showed the businesses using mattresses to topple to articulate their point.

The story quickly hit the nerve of mainstream media worldwide, who condemned the content for its poor taste in such a time of mourning. This goes down as one of the worst-executed campaigns of all time.

No matter how creative or left-field your idea may be, building out content is a long-term agenda. There are no quick wins to overtake your competition in the market. Rash decisions can lead to irreparable damage.

5. Malaysia Airlines: What’s your death wish?

Despite the the twin tragedies of MH17 and MH370 in which major travel operator Malaysia Airlines (MAS) was involved, the company went ahead with a competition on social media that left a bad taste in the mouth of more than its fair share of recipients. People in Australia and New Zealand were invited to explain, “What and where would you like to tick off on your bucket list?” in exchange for free economy-class tickets and iPads.

However, the brand didn’t do its homework to know that bucket lists can be interpreted to mean things to try and achieve before you do, a message clearly lost in translation. The landing page hosting the competition on the MAS website was taken down due to public outcry. Meanwhile, the repercussions continued on social media channels.

As an advocate of pursuing the latest trends in digital content and marketing, we want to point out that there is a success story for every missed opportunity.

The dog and bone.
Subscribe and be the first to hear about news and events.

Written by

Brid Flynn
The dog and bone.
Subscribe and be the first to hear about news and events.
View our last posts
Indago team laughs around table while making ravioli at Italian Cooking School in Marrickville

Dough & Drinks: Indago's Epic Quarterly Team Event

Kara Liu - 2 min read

Google I/O 2024: The AI Extravaganza – A Marketer’s Recap

Tahlia Reynolds - 9 min read
Google Universal Analytics arrow to GA4

How to Overcome Universal Analytics’ Sunset & Looming Shutdown

Preet Singh - 5 min read
Team members thinking together
Get in touch
Ready to get the ball rolling? Drop us a line.
First name*
Last name*
Email address*
Phone number*
Your message