What are the consequences in the case of failure of viral marketing campaigns?

What are the consequences in the case of failure of a viral marketing campaign?

The enormous reach of viral content is a double-edged sword. A successful marketing campaign will lead to growth of the customer base whilst a poor implemented or a bad chosen viral message cannot be drawn back. Once the message is spread across Social media platforms, marketers only can control its way to a limited extent. Consequently, failure of viral marketing campaigns can cause serious issues for its creator. The following negative outcomes were identified by looking at real-life examples described by evonomie:

1.) Damage for brand image


Car manufacturer Audi recently launched a campaign to promote their new A3 launch. Using the hashtag #PaidMyDues Audi encouraged its followers to post stories of challenges they had overcome, and the winners were to be interpreted into works of art by selected artists.

Whilst this worked well across many of Audi’s social networks, it failed to translate to their Instagram account. Followers of the brand on the site were used to seeing pictures of the manufacturer’s cars and were perturbed by the pictures of the seemingly unknown artists that kept cropping up  on the brand’s Instagram account.


In 2013, American phone giant AT&T received a backlash to their “Never forget” tweet on the anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The tweet showed a picture, taken on an AT&T mobile phone, of the two light beacons that now replace the iconic twin towers with the caption ‘Never forget’.

Many followers of the brand were outraged, calling the stunt insensitive and tacky, and although the tweet did go viral, it was for the wrong reasons.

2.) Damaging B2C relationship


Kellogg’s UK’s campaign to raise awareness of their Give a Child a Breakfast charity program famously backfired after they sent the tweet below.

To many of their followers, this tweet seemed like an obvious attempt to push their own marketing messages, creating a viral campaign at the expense of hungry children. One of the most popular replies was from Twitter user @botanygeek:

failed campaigns kelloggs response 2


American restaurant chain Chipotle launched a campaign to celebrate their 20th anniversary in 2013. The campaign was a 20 day treasure hunt called ‘Adventurito’ and clues were included in print and television advertising. Chipotle decided to incorporate social media into their anniversary campaign, coming up with the idea of orchestrating a pretend Twitter ‘hack’.

Chipotle sent out a series of seemingly random tweets that they later apologised for, saying their Twitter account had been hacked. In reality, it was part of the campaign and the tweets contained clues about the ingredients the chain uses to make its guacamole. Although, the Twitter campaign worked in the sense of attracting more followers (more than 4000 in one day) and engagement (the ‘hacked’ tweets were retweeted about 12,000 times), Chipotle’s followers were angry that they had been duped and the brand received complaints about the stunt.


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