Alan Ault's recent articles
Hyundai, Mountain Dew, DELL: most social backlashes are caused by brands' own marketing – Top 10 social media lessons
Lesson number five: 70% of social media backlashes originate from brands' own marketing content.
- 70% of backlashes are a reaction to brands' own content: This includes adverts criticising competitors, bringing up sensitive issues, or alienating certain demographic groups (see second chart)
- The other 30% are not related to the brands' marketing: They occur when consumers use social media to put pressure on a brand. For example, Subway was made to promise 12" footlongs. Disney withdrew their application to patent the "Dia de los Muertos", whilst Starbucks was pressured into paying tax
Sexism and racism are the main reasons for brands' marketing to backfire:
Proportion of backlashes against marketing content by topic
- Sexism makes up a third of backlashes against marketing content: Examples include DELL's “skeletor legs” model or the Dr Pepper Ten “Not For Women" drink. This shows that stereotyping or alienating genders will often lead to a negative reaction
- Racial stereotypes, violence and depicting health issues can cause backlashes: For example, Hyundai, Mountain Dew and ING Direct were all forced to pull their adverts for showing controversial topics such as suicide, mental problems or racial stereotypes
- Adverts boasting about certain aspects of a brand can also backfire: AMEX's #BeInspired campaign received sarcastic responses questioning the brand's charitable motives
Understanding which issues cause negativity can help marketers know what to steer clear of in their advertising. However, it is possible that some brands are deliberately seeking controversy, saying that negative buzz is better than no buzz at all. Either way, brands should make sure they are ready to respond to a backlash should it occur.