The most appalling brand tweets ever


(Screenshot by the Washington Post)

US Airways’s jaw-dropping, cringe-inducing, termination-justifying tweet sent on Monday may actually be the worst brand tweet of all time.

I know, because I just scrolled through roughly two dozen “worst brand tweet” lists … and nothing quite compares to @USAirway’s XXX image of a lady and — shall we say, a creatively placed model plane. (The airline has since explained, to no one’s satisfaction, that another user originally posted the image, which the airline then re-sent “inadvertently.”)

There are other contenders for the worst-tweet title, of course. Many of them involve brands attempting to commemorate — a.k.a. capitalize on — tragedies, holidays, serious news events and other happenings they generally don’t have any business taking part in. Sometimes said commemoration is entirely accidental, as in the case of the NRA tweeter who wished “shooters” a “Happy Friday!” the day after the Aurora shootings.

Or the time Entenman’s — which hasn’t tweeted since June of last year — tried to jump on the #notguilty hashtag, apparently without realizing the tag referred to the Casey Anthony case.

But on other occasions, the poor timing is all too deliberate. There was, for instance, that time Kenneth Cole tweeted (and deleted!) a message about the Arab Spring: “Millions are in an uproar in Cairo. Rumor is they heard our new spring collection is now available online.”

Or when the online store Celeb Boutique attempted to hijack the Aurora shooting hashtag:

These tweets commemorated Pearl Harbor, MLK Day and 9/11, respectively.


(Screengrab by Hayley Tsukayama)

Urban Outfitters was one of several stores to offer Hurricane Sandy promotions, but where Gap and American Apparel had the good sense to delete or clarify them, UO did not:

Then there’s the case of the accidental tweet: a message meant for the tweeter’s personal account, a direct message, or some other less public venue … but that somehow makes it to the Interwebs anyway. That seems to be the case with this latest US Airways gaffe — and with many a Twitter mishap before it.

Chrysler and Stubhub’s social media employees have also made gaffes so serious we can’t embed them here: “Thank [expletive] it’s Friday,” Stubhub tweeted, among other things; meanwhile, a Chrysler employee was fired after inadvertently tweeting “I find it ironic that Detroit is known as the #motorcity and yet no one here knows how to [expletive] drive.”

But there’s perhaps no Twitter mishap more entertaining than an employee gone rogue. You’ll recall the Marc Jacobs intern who allegedly commandeered that account to post a lengthy screed against his boss in 2011. (Click the image to see a larger version.)

… that still doesn’t top US Airways, though. Not quite sure anything can.

Caitlin Dewey runs The Intersect blog, writing about digital and Internet culture. Before joining the Post, she was an associate online editor at Kiplinger’s Personal Finance.
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