User-Generated Campaigns That Backfired

Two for Tuesday: User-Generated Campaigns That Backfired

If #AlexFromTarget showed brands one thing, it’s that user-generated content can circulate around the Internet in an insanely fast fashion. While Target had nothing to do with this past weekend’s most popular meme, the brand name sure got a lot of attention.

Tapping into the power of a consumer fan base can provide brands with authentic content to bolster their marketing campaigns. User-generated content adds credibility and engages consumers, both of which can boost the effectiveness of a campaign. However, since controlling everything consumers say about a brand is an impossibility, campaigns fueled by user-generated content don’t always go as planned. So on this Two for Tuesday, take a look at two marketing plans rooted in consumer-created content that completely backfired.



Starbucks #SpreadTheCheer


In December of 2012, Starbucks started  #SpreadTheCheer on Twitter to get coffee lovers in the holiday spirit, while at the same time sponsoring an ice skating rink at the London Natural History Museum. The coffee giant thought it would be a great idea to display the #SpreadTheCheer tweets on the wall of the ice rink; this would have been a great idea, had the content filter not malfunctioned. Starbucks had recently come under fire for not paying enough in corporate taxes and cutting wages for some employees, so people took to Twitter to share their opinions.




Several of the Tweets used bad language, and both the National History Museum and Starbucks issued apology statements. In hopes of putting the scandal behind them, Starbucks volunteered to pay an extra 10 million pounds in taxes for two years.



Chevrolet Tahoe Write-Your-Own-Ad


In 2006, Chevrolet debuted a website which allowed visitors to create a custom commercial for the 2007 Chevrolet Tahoe. By involving consumers, Chevrolet hoped to create an engaging viral marketing campaign. In order to drive involvement, Chevrolet offered a wide range of prizes, such as a free trip or tickets to a sporting event. Unfortunately, individuals who had issues with negative environmental impact of the Tahoe’s size used the website as an outlet for their grievances. Critical consumer-created commercials soon circled the internet, such as the video below.





Chevrolet admitted they anticipated there would be negative submissions, but were hoping to reach young and tech-savvy consumers that would help the car company spread their brand across the web.

Cover Photo Source: Naiyyer /

[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’][/author_image] [author_info]Jenny is a Junior Executive at SJG. She earned her BA in Psychology and a minor in Educational Studies in 2014 from Colgate University. Outside the office, Jenny loves to travel (usually to Disney World), bake and watch copious amounts of TLC.[/author_info] [/author]