The Top 5 ‘What Were They Thinking?’ Social Moments of 2015

Let's look back on a few of the moments in 2015 that had us wondering, "What were they thinking?"

2015 was a banner year for brands on social media, as several companies found prominence on emerging platforms such as Pinterest and Snapchat. Hashtags crossed over from marketing tactic to cross-platform phenomenon.

However, it wasn’t the best of times for a few marketers and social media managers. Let’s look back on a few of the moments in 2015 that had us wondering, “What were they thinking?”

5. The IHOP Tweet

Ugh. In a year with amazing advertising moments like Always′ award-winning “Like a Girl” campaign (which just added an Emmy to its accolades) and Ram Trucks′ “Courage Inside” ad, seeing a tweet that uses sophomoric, sexist “humor” to promote pancakes was jarring. IHOP apologized, but the tweet was part of a series of tweets that ranged from offensive to bizarre as the brand apparently sought to adopt what they thought was a hip tone to appeal to a younger demographic. Trying to expand appeal is a good idea, but these tweets? Not so much. 4. The Bud Light #UpForWhatever Campaign

Creating an integrated campaign that ties a hashtag on social to messaging across brand touchpoints (including packaging) sounds like a big win. Unfortunately, the execution for Bud Light failed to think through the way its campaign would be perceived by the public.

With the hashtag #UpForWhatever and the message: “The perfect beer for removing the word ′No′ from your vocabulary for the night. #UpForWhatever” printed on bottles, the ensuing backlash on Twitter should have come as no surprise.

The campaign was even the subject of a Last Week Tonight with John Oliver segment on HBO. Oliver mocked the campaign saying it had a “certain rapey feel to it.”

3. Bic′s #HappyWomensDay Post

Bic was already working to undo the “For Her” pens PR fiasco from two years ago when the brand launched pink pens that, as Gawker noted, were “for reasons we can′t fathom…” They were met with a flood of snarky, funny reviews on Amazon and a backlash on social. This year, for Women′s Day in South Africa, this was the brand with a head-scratcher of a post to celebrate. Not surprisingly, the post didn′t go over too well. Competitor Stabilouk was happy to pounce on the misstep.

2. The Seahawks′ MLK Day Tweet

Jumping on a holiday to promote your brand can be fun when the content is in the spirit of the particular holiday. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, which honors the work of a historic social justice leader, and who was assassinated while working to advance the Civil Rights Movement, would call for a level of respect that many found lacking in the Seattle Seahawks′ tweet of the day this year.

Many were offended by the apparent comparison of centuries of civil rights struggles in the US to competing for a spot in the Super Bowl.

The team deleted the post and apologized.

But for some, it was a lasting reminder of the importance of a well-thought-out social strategy.

1. The Houston Rockets’ Emoji Tweet

Humor. Many advise folding in humor within social posts. But it can go oh so wrong sometimes.

In a classic I-45 rivalry in Texas, the general managers of the Houston Rockets and the Dallas Mavericks spar in the press, and the fans from both teams trash-talk in salty tweets. There′s always a little snarky humor in the back and forth, but one tweet from the Houston Rockets, for many, went beyond snark, and landed somewhere creepy and dark.

In a mashup of the Jack Waltz scene in 1972′s The Godfather and the 2010s′ obsession with emojis, the Houston Rockets tweeted a horse emoji (the mascot for the Dallas Mavericks is a horse) with a gun next to its head. The copy read, “Shhhhh. Just close your eyes. It will all be over soon.”

While the tweet garnered considerable bad press everywhere from USA Today Sports to Huffington Post, and a backlash on Twitter, some Houston Rockets fans defended the tweet as “funny.” Columnist S.E. Cupp, writing in The Dallas Morning News went so far as to pen a piece decrying the criticism suggesting, “It was friendly trash-talk.” This sentiment brings to mind the saying, “With friends like that…”

The poster, Chad Shanks, digital communications manager, was fired from the Houston Rockets. He, of course, took to Twitter to share his thoughts on the incident.

The latest word on Chad Shanks? He transformed his negative press into an opportunity. He apologized publicly, owned what happened and used it to redirect his own story. He did a social takeover for @LeBatardShow and is now the director of marketing for StatMuse, giving hope that despite even huge social missteps, it is possible for brands, and individuals, to bounce back.

Readers: What other moments on social made you shake your head in 2015?

Amy Edel-Vaughn is the social media expert and content developer of EGC Group.