Tour de force

WooExpert Platinum WooCommerce partner - biggest elephant in the eCommerce room.
Mailchimp Partner Mailchimp partner - you know what’s the newest cutting edge customer experience solution? Great email subject!
Clutch logo Clutch - clients say we’re top dogs in eCommerce. Throw us that stick now.
WordPress Vip WordPress VIP - Enterprise hosting partner

Top Digital FAILS of 2017

2017. was an interesting year in the online sphere. Social media, e-mail campaigns, influencer marketing and video content have become an imperative for brand presence and user reach on digital platforms. Some of them were praiseworthy, some were a total failure. We investigated examples of such digital fails and made a list of big NO-NO’s in this post.

Listen to this article
0.5x 0.75x 1x 1.25x 1.5x

Japan death forest – video

On Dec. 31, the YouTube star Paul Logan shared a video of himself and his friends going through the Aokigahara “suicide” forest in Japan. In the video, a suicide victim was hanging from a tree, and it was titled “We found a dead body in the Japanese Suicide Forest”.
We don’t know if the motive for uploading such content was to deliberately create more user engagement and sensationalism or just to share the initial shock from the experience. With this video, he pissed off a lot of people, including Youtube, his sponsors, fans and a good portion of the public who are familiar with this topic.

The day after, Logan apologized TWICE. The first time he recorded a video message saying that his intention was to “raise awareness for suicide and suicide prevention” he was “ashamed” of himself. This was an unconvincing act of “putting out the fire” and damage control, after the public fury and crucifixion. Later that day, he apologized one more time, through a Twitter announcement for fans. Later he said that he was temporarily suspending his “vlog” because he was “taking time to reflect.”


Imagine that you’re planning to travel by plane, and you’re a few minutes away from taking off the ground, and then, suddenly, someone starts dragging you out of the plane. The described scenario is connected with the United Airlines scandal, and we are not sure what was worse in this crisis management:

  • Involuntarily dragging the man out of the plane
  • Making his face bleed in the process
  • The fact that video has spread like wildfire through social media channels and other mediums
  • United Airline’s public reaction and announcement with even worse outcomes and justification of the necessity of this act
digital fail 04

The public was outraged and it was sympathizing with that passenger. In the bigger picture, it wasn’t just one passenger, but 4 of them, and they were removed from the flight because of United Airlines’ overbooked flight. The passenger had every right to resist, but there were sooooooo many different (and better) ways to handle this situation peacefully. United Airlines shares were down more than 4 percent the day after the incident, and the company’s handling crisis rippled the stock price.

What could they do?

United Airlines could have given the passengers vouchers for the next flight and apologized for overbooking this flight or given a hotel accommodation. They should have apologized for the inconvenience and settled this crisis situation down. The worst thing they did was to accuse the passengers of their omission on the television and claimed that they acted properly – making the passenger’s face bleed. What a full-service customer-oriented company!

COFVEVE – Trump Tweet

Among top digital fails in 2017. was President Trump’s Tweet ‘’despite the constant negative press covfefe” – An hour later the internet was on fire debating about what he meant by this Tweet. Everybody had a theory about what was the meaning of this message. It seems likely the President meant to begin a tweet with “despite the constant negative press coverage” – and that’s about it. This tweet was available for a few more hours after publishing and the public went crazy with mocking Trump. Urban Dictionary suggests the following definition: “When you want to say “coverage” but your hands are too small to hit all the letters on your keyboard.”

digital fail 01

What is wrong with this? Well, if you’re one of the most powerful people representing one of the most powerful countries in the world, it’s not appropriate to send a half-written tweet in the middle of the night and then blame the press for negative ‘’cofveve’’ 😀 Although it is not unusual for Trump to Tweet in the middle of the night, that practice should be reserved for crisis situations only when something of public interest has to be urgently disclosed to the public. It seems a little frivolous that the person in this position suffers from insomnia-induced irresistible need to send Tweets that are confusing the public, media representatives, and social media users.

ADIDAS BOSTON MARATHON – the unfortunate email Campaign

This email campaign could be characterized as an unintentional ‘’lapsus linguae’’. The tragedy that happened in 2013. Boston Marathon when the bombs exploded at the finish line when three people were killed and more than 260 injured, was remembered as a terrorist act that shook up the nation. Four years later, after the 2017 Marathon, Adidas sent an email campaign with the subject line read: “Congrats, you survived the Boston Marathon!”

digital fail 03

If you ask us, it’s visible from the plane that the marathon (as expected) was a physically challenging and demanding activity. Adidas wanted to congratulate all the participants in this event. But. people reacted differently. They were furious.

Adidas later sent a statement with an explanation and apology: “We are incredibly sorry, clearly, there was no thought given to the insensitive email subject line we sent Tuesday. We deeply apologize for our mistake. The Boston Marathon is one of the most inspirational sporting events in the world. Every year we’re reminded of the hope and resiliency of the running community at this event.”
Well, Adidas, this was inappropriate, but we honestly believe that this was unintentional and was not intended to be a mockery of the tragic event. Adidas, be more careful next time!

PEPSI – Jenner commercial

Embrace yourself, Kendall Jenner brings new meaning to world peace. Naaah, we’re just being sarcastic. This commercial was widely criticized for appearing to trivialize demonstrations aimed to fight social injustice. Kendall Jenner, stepped away from the modeling gig to join the crowd of young protesters and gave the policeman a Pepsi can, by which the story of the commercial suggests that protesters and police can get along better if they share a Pepsi drink. This commercial story was connected with regard to the Black Lives Matter movement.

The sleazy part of the commercial is the moment when the protesters cheer after she hands a can of Pepsi to a police officer, who takes a sip and smiles at his colleague. Among those mocking the advert was Bernice King, who tweeted a photo of her father, civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr, being confronted by a police officer at a protest. The idea of raising awareness about social injustice is justified, but the manner in which this commercial is conceived and executed isn’t. Social injustice is one of the biggest problems in the world and it shouldn’t be exploited in commercial use with one of the most commercialized pseudo-celebrities.

Nikon – men-only digital campaign – shame on you NIKON!

This disaster sums up in one PR campaign – 32 male photographers and no women among them. Nikon has an ENORMOUS optic problem. Nikon chose 32 professional photographers across Asia to promote their new D850 – and they were all men. Why were women sidelined? We don’t know! Nikon sent a press release in which it stated: “Unfortunately, the female photographers we had invited for this meet were unable to attend, and we acknowledge we have not put enough of a focus in this area.”

digital fail 02

Well, Nikon… we’ve got a message for you: Women’s rights and gender equality are not fresh news or worse an empty phrase. The fact that the female photographers and photojournalists weren’t represented due to their inability to participate is not justified and it shouldn’t be the excuse for this kind of behavior. Nikon should’ve really thought of the message that it’s sending with this campaign to the public. Gender equality is not something that you use when it suits the occasion or context. This campaign is really missing a critical point of view on the holistic picture of the campaign.

MCDONALD’S vs. TRUMP – Twitter war

On the May 16th, McDonald’s sent a Tweet in which were tagged, no more, no less than two American presidents – @realDonaldTrump and @BarrackObama. This tweet spread out through social media and press like wildfire. We assume that this isn’t the official McDonald’s position on the question of who is (or was) the better President Obama or Trump. This looks like McDonald’s community manager got up on the wrong foot that day, and sent subjective opinions about Trump and his personal view of politics.

digital fail 00

For McDonald’s Corporation, this was “huuuuuge” (citing the Trump) crisis situation because a multinational company with a several billion-dollars portfolio shouldn’t send a Tweet with the words “disgusting excuse of a President” in it. If this was one man’s job, we can understand that McDonald’s community manager was in the wrong mood and on the opposite side of the political spectrum. If this was on the scale of the whole McDonald’s, then they should’ve consulted a PR expert to write something less offensive and something a little more decent, adapted to the media language and filled with euphemisms rather than directly insulting one of the most media-exposed people in the country.

With all that being said, the easiest thing is to get smart when it’s all over. So if you have an idea to create content that is better than these representative examples on the list, you can hop in as our new interactive media designer.

Petra Filip
Petra Filip Copywriter and Content Maker

Skilfull content creator always on the hunt for tech trends

Subscribe to our quarterly newsletter

Please fill in this field.
Please thick this field to proceed.

Related blog posts