Ten Brands on Twitter – The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Wednesday, 06 November 2013

Twitter announced in early October that it would be rolling out a new DM (direct messaging) feature that would allow Twitter users to opt in and become eligible to receive direct messages from any other account, even those they aren’t connected, with producing a new angle for brands to target their Twitter followers.

However, brands have already been making the most of their Twitter accounts through a variety of mediums, whether it be customer service, viral marketing or daily updates.  We have collected together ten examples of brands using Twitter with varying degrees of success. Read on for the Good, the Bad and the Ugly examples of the leading Twitterati.

The Good


Lets kick of with one of the most memorable Twitter moments yet.  Step back in time to February 3rd, 2013.  Super Bowl XLVII has millions of viewers across the globe watching giants hurtling at one another in an effort to reach the endzone and then pffzzzt.

The lights go out and the pitch descends into darkness.  Oreo’s quick thinking executives saw the opportunity for viral exposure and the ‘dunk in the dark’ campaign was on Twitter within moments in one of the most supreme displays of real time marketing ever seen.  The Tweet would go on to score over 15,000 retweets and 20,000 Facebook likes and display Twitters growing dominance in real time marketing.

Since then, Twitter have used the now world famous tweet in promotional videos and montages across the corporate sector, most recently in the company’s IPO Roadshow video.  If Twitter say it’s the best, then who are we to argue?


Smart Car

Twitters growth has provided brands with an open communication channel not only to its customers, but to the rest of the world as well.  If a consumer has a gripe about your brand and they want to take it public Twitter isn’t going to stop them, so brands have to be on the look out for negative feedback and respond with measured, insightful responses.  Or in Smart Car’s case, a dash of humor.

Of course responding to critics on the web isn’t new, but Smart reacted with style, managing to turn the joke in its head and provide entertainment for its followers and a viral piece of marketing all with a single message.



Twitter is of course a brilliant channel to deal with disgruntled customers and to provide entertainment, but it also provides brands with the opportunity for further engagement with it’s customers that isn’t driven by the necessity of customer service.  Nike is highly engaged with its followers and regularly communicates with them even if it is just for a chat or a few words of motivation.



Four Seasons

Ok, so hotels using Twitter is pretty much a given now as the concierge service continues to digitalise using Twitter as one of its primary channels.  The Four Seasons chain was one of the forerunners and have continued to use Twitter to connect with their customers on a personal, one to one basis.  They go beyond the occasional friendly response and will provide information on the best restaurants, cheapest theater tickets and hottest tourist destinations.



The Bad



Could one of the greatest brands of the 21st Century really be that bad on Twitter? Just take a look at these tweets from the brand’s US feed.



Yup, spring cleaning.  That was the best a multi-million dollar brand could come up with.  Everyone knows that content is king, and good content at that, so why on earth this stuff is filling up their feed is beyond me.  Companies who are looking to engage with their customers on a personal level need to either communicate with them directly and involve them in discussion or at least provide them with interesting content.


Stead & Simpson

S & S are much maligned for their terrible Twitter account, but let’s be honest.  It is truly awful.  Fair enough, they have a difficult product to sell and who in their right mind will actually search on Twitter for the culprits behind those terrible school shoes that haunt kids nightmares, but they just don’t even try.

This is it.  An automated feed of their latest releases and new styles.  Stead and Simpson  aren’t Gucci, so will followers be avidly  checking their feed for the latest release? Perhaps a rare example where a brand would be better of with no Twitter at all.



The Ugly


Heading in a bit of a different direction here as brands are generally too savvy to let their channels descend into complete chaos, but there have been incidents when Twitter situations have gotten seriously ugly.


Back in 2012, McDonalds launched the #McDStories campaign aimed at spreading  new and stories of customers and employees good experiences with the brand. Whoops. Didn’t quite work out as they planned, as disgruntled customers took to Twitter to share their McHorror stories instead.  McDonald’s found themselves in a compromising position with negative feedback swarming on their feed, yet unable to delete it for fear of losing face.  This serves to emphasise the value of consumer research before ambitious Twitter campaigns are launched.

Even animal rights campaigners PETA got in on the act in what was  one of the biggest backfires in social media history.




Household furnishings retailer Habitat landed themselves in hot water after a member of staff employed spam tactics to promote their products, adding in trending completely unrelated hashtags into every tweet.  Were they relevant?  Maybe if Kobe Bryant is looking for cheap furniture.

This should be held up to every prospective social marketer as an example of what you should never, EVER do when managing a Twitter account.  A self harming and desperate attempt at social media promotion.



Celeb Boutique

Another example of either horrendous stupidity, or a show of horrific ethics.  In the wake of the Aurora cinema shootings the fashion store released this mindless and insensitive tweet.

The incident highlights the importance of an educated and well informed approach to social media.  All Tweets should be checked by another before posting  to prevent idiocy/genuine mistakes such as these from inflicting serious damage to a brand’s image.



Urban Outfitters

Obviously not quite satisfied with claims of overt sexuality and unethical practice in their public outreach, Urban Outfitters decided to go one step further and take advantage of Hurricane Sandy as a means to promote their sales and push those sheltering in their homes to online shopping.

Riding on tragedy to sell a product  is  a sure fire way to ensure a barrage of hatred towards your brand.  Attempting to use such a heart wrenching & sad tragedy to promote consumer spending is social media suicide 101.


At Zeta we don’t claim to be ‘gurus’ but we certainly know our way around social media.  If you would like to book a consultancy to see how we can help your brand on social media, please don’t hesitate.