Royal Dutch Airlines Wins World Cup Twitter Fail

The airline posted a racially insensitive tweet bashing the Mexican World Cup team after a last-minute loss to the Dutch squad.

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For as many well-executed real-time marketing tweets, there are dozens more miserable failures.

Yesterday the Netherlands’ KLM airlines, also known as Royal Dutch, angered the Twittersphere by posting a racially insensitive Tweet after the Dutch World Cup team managed to win against Mexico in the last six minutes of Sunday’s match. Screen Shot 2014-06-30 at 1.49.11 PM

While real-time marketing is today’s in-strategy, for some brands, during some events, a smarter tactic is to not say anything at all. Brands must be aware of the social media minefield, where ordinary users lie in wait to call them out on their blunders.

Last year, Chicago-based business owner Hasan Syed spent $1,000 on a promoted tweet to complain about the poor customer service his family received from British Airways. In addition to his own 400 Twitter followers, 50,000 Twitter users based in New York and the United Kingdom (that Syed paid to target) saw the tweet.

The KLM tweet follows Delta’s Twitter gaffe when that airline posted a picture of a Giraffe to represent Ghana during its match with the U.S. (users were quick to point out that Giraffes are not found in Ghana).

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Offensive tweets don’t just fall flat, they prompt an instantaneous backlash.

When Lupita Nyong’o won Best Supporting Actress at this year’s Academy Awards, HuffPo saw it as an opportunity to promote Chelsea Handler’s book “Uganda Be Kidding Me.”  The nonsensical tweet was also considered offensive as Nyong’o has no ties to Uganda (or Chelsea Handler) but claims dual Mexican and Kenyan citizenship.

Another airline, Qantas, provides an example of lousy timing with its hashtag promotion #QantasLuxury. The airline asked followers to share their “dream luxury in-flight experience” for a chance to win a prize. Stranded, angry customers hijacked the hashtag in reaction to cancelled contract negotiations between the company and union workers the day before; the only “luxury” they wanted was to get off the ground.

And there can be legal consequences for brands posting online as well. When Burberry used an image of Humphrey Bogart taken from the film “Casablanca” on its Facebook page, Bogart’s heirs claimed it gave consumers a false message that Bogart endorsed Burberry products. The case ended up settling out of court for an undisclosed sum.
Arby’s used the Grammys to tweet at Pharrell Williams about his Smokey the Bear hat, “Hey @Pharrell, can we have our hat back? #GRAMMYs,” risking a lawsuit for insinuating an endorsement and mentioning the artist without permission. Fortunately, Williams took no action.