Nowadays, social media marketing is a dominant strategy for many big brands. Many corporates try to engage with customers by using social media. The share ability, interactivity, and low cost are the benefits of using social media as the main marketing tools. However, social media might leads to disasters in an unexpected way sometimes. Once the marketers make the mistakes on it, things could easily backfires.

This happened to one of McDonald’s campaigns in 2012. At first, McDonald’s sponsored the hashtag #McDStories in January 2012, asking users to tweet in about positive dining experiences at its restaurants. Instead, respondents joked about obesity and dog food. Although the company pulled the campaign within two hours, it has already continued to spiral out of control. Users kept tweeting the abandoned hashtag a week after it was removed.
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Although everyone use social media, its power is being underestimated at most of the time.  The McDonald’s case shows how the corporate’s intention of utilizing the interactivity between social media and customers failed. The reason of why the campaign went wrong is debatable. The marketers might need to examine more about social media before designing the tools for social media marketing campaign. Once things go public, there is no way back.


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8 Responses to McDisaster

  1. Linda says:

    This is an excellent example of how powerful social media can be! The forum McDonald’s created was a lesson learned for corporations who should probably do some homework (aka research) before opening a flood gate by inviting the unknown into their marketing arena. However, McDonald’s had its share of bad comments online for as long as I can remember including a lady who posted a mummified happy meal that was left under a car seat for years and still looked like the day it purchased! You’d think they would have known better!

  2. ugatti says:

    I agree with the fact that companies should think more thoroughly about their use of social media marketing. Given the importance that social media have in the communication world nowadays, I believe that companies, that aim to use social media marketing as one of their most used marketing tools, should hire marketers specialized in social media marketing.

  3. Chanel says:

    I totally remember seeing this hashtag and the stories…it was rather hilarious. While yes, I’d argue that McDonald’s really should have done market research to see how their campaign would be received, I think the misinterpretation and misuse over social media is something all campaigns worry about. It seems that there is little organizations can do to prevent it too, but haven’t had the chance to really sit down and brainstorm some…thoughts?

  4. Jillian says:

    In our public relations class this semester, we’ve discussed failed hashtag campaigns at length, and let me tell you, it’s beginning to seem like launching a hashtag campaign is really a 50/50, a fail or pass. Your campaign is either successful or really disastrous! I feel like the failure of hashtag campaigns comes from the organization’s lack of research thoroughness. We’ve had to deconstruct campaigns in its entirety and in so doing, I’ve been forced to really look at all angles of campaigns, including potential negatives. Now, when I hear of a campaign that went wrong (especially hashtag campaigns), I firmly believe that either there was a lack of critical thinking involved or marketers decided that the risk was worth taking.

    At the same time, I’ve also come to believe that successful hashtag campaigns are the ones that create an emotional response. For example, Nike’s #makeitcount campaign, or Obama’s #40dollars campaign.

    After reading your blog post, another thought has surfaced… Perhaps companies, organizations, or people who have been surrounded by a lot of negative media (i.e., McDonald’s and obesity or Politics and the #IAmARepublican campaign) should play it safe and forego being trendy by way of hashtag?

  5. Ashley says:

    Great point! One of the risks of launching an open platform on a social media site is that the company generating the discussion may not necessarily be able to control the direction of the conversation. In a world where consumer-generated content and word-of-mouth advertising is gaining more traction, I’d be hesitant to launch an open-ended conversation that could leave so much room for criticism. At some point, a company has got to ask the question whether bad press is better than no press at all. Sure, this McDonald’s social media disaster generated lots of buzz, and gave many us of us a few laughs, but does it actually bring in any other tangible gain to the company itself? When the conversation has such a negative overtone, and drifts off into entertaining spiels between other online users, I don’t think the brand itself reaps much of a benefit.

    If a company was actually attuned to consumers’ general sentiment, they’d be able to better gauge or predict which topics could work on a social media page, and which topics should not be brought in the open for public dialogue. Topics that beg to be mocked or made fun of, like this McDonald’s conversation thread, should be approached with more caution.

  6. Meradyth says:

    Wow! Social media users definitely have the influence to change the intention of any campaign, but that’s something that we already knew. I think it’s interesting to analyze why this campaign failed as opposed to others. Was there enough directive from McDonalds? Was there an incentive? It’s risky to ask for customers experience because not all customers have good experiences. This appears to be more of an outlet to vent as opposed to a way to spread the McDonalds love.

  7. Graham says:

    Great post! I came across this unfortunate campaign a while back and I still think it would have been great for another brand. McDonalds has far too much negative stigma around it to ask for marketing help from the public though. It may be that they simply take more than they give in the community or the negative impact that they have in our culture is so pronounced that more positive involvement will be needed on the part of the brand leaders if they hope to clean up the image. McDonalds impact has been arguably devastating and even with all the Ronald McDonald hospitals and schools and playplace ball pits in the world they still damage society in huge, possibly immeasurable ways. If instead of McStories they had said Tweet us your favorite McMemory and if it makes our top 100 in each area (so virtually everyone can win) we’ll give you a free burger or shake I’ll be things would have turned out much differently. In short, they could have at least offered something for those that participate. Also, they need to tap the voice of brand champions and not perform a social media poll to invoke the wrath of public opinion.

  8. pchoksi says:

    Every corporation should understand the power of social media. Good and bad, it has the ability to make or break a brand image. McDonald’s example can be used as an eye opener for companies that are merely fascinated by the show bizz of social media.