Horror Stories of Rowdy Customers Ruining Campaigns: How to Avoid This

Remember the movie “Clerks?” There’s a famous line in it – “This place would be a great place to work if it weren’t for the [expletive] customers!” While we need and love all the customers we can get, sometimes we find out that they’re actively trying to sabotage us. Sometimes we don’t even find out until it’s way too late and we’re forced to kill an otherwise solid campaign. 

Think this doesn’t happen? Take a look at some past real-world examples of people forcing companies to rethink what they’d just done.


Scary eyes of a manA few years ago Skittles had the bright idea of using the up and coming service known as Twitter to their advantage. They realized the potential Twitter had to reach millions of people at once and wanted to capitalize on their fans talking about the product they loved: Skittles!

So they decided to put every tweet that involved the word “Skittles” on the front page of their website. I’m sure you can figure out what happened next: pandemonium. While a few people still talked about the candy in a loving manner, most of the tweets became profane, crazy, and some were just plain offensive.

The candy company quickly realized their mistake and pulled the campaign, which was unfortunate as it was rather a good idea. They put a lot of trust into the public and were betrayed.

Woody Harrelson Breaks Reddit 

Reddit is becoming THE place for any celebrity touting their latest work to go and talk to people everywhere. The PR team sets up an AMA (Ask Me Anything) and people submit questions they’ve always wanted to know about their favorite personalities. If the person is honest and open it typically goes well with just a few “trolls” getting in the way.

However, this was absolutely not the case when Woody Harrelson dropped by to promote his movie Rampart. He barely answered any questions and just wanted to talk about the movie. The whole thing came off like a PR stunt which is the opposite idea of an AMA. The crowd turned on Harrelson and someone even told a story of Woody picking up a high school girl at a prom. He quickly left.

How to Avoid These Situations 

While it’s nice to put your faith in your customers/fans/clients, you have to plan for the worst. Both Skittles and Woody’s team assumed everything would be fine if they used a new social media/PR tool to their advantage. In both cases it turned on them because they didn’t think ahead.

For example, Skittles should’ve put in a screening measure for the tweets that went on the front page. Just one person to grab good tweets out of the stream to put them up would have saved a lot of headaches.

As for Woody’s AMA debacle, it would have behooved his PR team to do a little research first. They thought him going on Reddit and doing the bare minimum and always talking about the movie would work. If they’d looked at past examples, they would have realized that was a terrible assumption. Always know what you’re getting into before you jump in headfirst!

What’s an example of customers messing up your otherwise well thought out plans?

[…] Mickie Kennedy is the founder of eReleases. A version of this article first appeared on the PR Fuel blog. (Image via, via & via) Tweet #idc-container .idc-message { display:none […]


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