Given how the United States decided to formally recognize corporations as people in 2010, these 2018 corporate fails should come as no surprise. Just like a thoughtless celebrity can make a public gaffe that leads to major backlash, the employees who man the Twitter and Facebook pages of major companies can land in the midst of some major corporate social media fails.
It's bad enough to tweet out something of questionable taste that reflects poorly on a single person. Imagine making a poorly timed joke or factually inaccurate statement that tanks the reputation of a company made up of hundreds or even thousands of people. These cringe-worthy corporate social media fails of 2018 will make you think twice before hitting "post."
Bad jokes, misguided ad campaigns, misinformation, and occasionally downright incompetence can lead to massive outcry and even profit loss. The corporations with the worst social media are often left scrambling to make quick apologies to save face. While 2018 corporate screw-ups can leave a company's PR team working overtime, the good news for these brands is we live in the age of the 24-hour news cycle. One headline-grabbing scandal can only last so long before being replaced by a fresh source of public outrage.
Is it just me, or is this ad that popped up on my Snapchat extremely tone deaf? Like what were they thinking with this? pic.twitter.com/7kP9RHcgNG— Royce Mann (@TheRoyceMann) March 12, 2018
In March 2018, Snapchat enraged the public when it ran an ad that mocked Rihanna's domestic abuse. In 2009, the news broke that Chris Brown had brutally beaten Rihanna during an argument. The ad Snapchat posted was for an ap called "Would You Rather", based on a popular party game in which players must choose between two unpleasant scenarios. The ad in question asked users, "Would you rather slap Rihanna or punch Chris Brown?"
Snapchat issued an apology after facing backlash, claiming the ad was approved in error and removed as soon as the company became aware of its content. Rihanna, however, was not having the apology. She posted a lengthy response via an Instagram message condemning the app for shaming domestic abuse victims everywhere. Rihanna ended her rant with the words, "Shame on you. Throw the whole app-oligy away."
I started a petition with @18millionrising to rename #YellowFeverEats at @365byWholeFoods. We give a few name ideas. SIGN THE PETITION AND SEND IN YOUR IDEAS! https://t.co/TEUFuD4b4h #CureYellowFever pic.twitter.com/dqTabjaclj— Jenny Yang (@jennyyangtv) May 1, 2018
While the franchise had been in operation for over four years in various California locations, Yellow Fever began to cause controversy when it opened a location in a Long Beach Whole Foods. Given the prevalence of Asian families in the California city, many took offense to an Asian-themed restaurant that made use of a pejorative term as a name. After comedian Jenny Yang sent out an angry tweet about the restaurant, Whole Foods faced a slew of public backlash.
In defense of Whole Foods, the restaurant's owner is an Asian-American woman who felt using the term "Yellow Fever" - a term traditionally signifying white men's inappropriate attraction to Asian women - could be empowering. She intended to help reappropriate the term by using it to celebrate Asian food and culture. However, many other Asian-Americans still took issue, claiming a single restaurateur does not speak for every Asian person.
Plenty of successful ad campaigns have premiered on Super Bowl Sunday, but having millions of viewers means reception can just as easily swing the other way. This was the case for Ram Trucks when they released a new commercial on Super Bowl Sunday in 2018. The commercial included audio from Martin Luther King Jr.'s "Drum Major Instinct" sermon, played over a montage of working class people and Ram trucks driving through tough terrain. The audio included the lines:
"You don’t have to know about Plato and Aristotle to serve. You don’t have to know the theory of relativity to serve. You don’t have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve. You only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love."
This was linked to the new Ram tagline, "Built to serve." However, had Ram officials listened to the rest of the speech, they would have heard King slam advertisers that make people feel they need to drive a specific type of car to make their neighbors envious.
Needless to say, reactions to the ad were extremely negative. The company was slammed across social media platforms and the commercial was interpreted as hypocritical and downright offensive.
«Les talibans auraient préféré entendre Yanny ou Laurel plutôt que le bruit de notre A-10»— Florent Derue (@florentderue) May 17, 2018
Ce tweet de l'US Air Force qui annonce le bombardement d'une ville est d'une violence �� pic.twitter.com/bWxbGWegvG
In May 2018, an online audio clip made headlines everywhere as different people heard different things. While some swear the recording was saying "yanny," others distinctly heard "laurel." In the midst of a bombing campaign in Afghanistan, the US Air Force decided to get in on the fun with a tweet stating Taliban forces would rather have heard "yanny" or "laurel" instead of the noise of an A10 dropping bombs. The tweet was widely panned online for being insensitive and diminishing the potential loss of civilian lives in the Middle East due to the ongoing War on Terror. The original tweet was quickly deleted.