5 Epic Branded Twitter #Fails of 2013

Commemorating the terrible tweets

Headshot of Christopher Heine

While the potential benefits of real-time marketing have been documented, the tactic's perils helped keep the ad industry entertained during 2013. Well, the brands that got caught in Twitter's crosshairs were certainly not amused.

So Adweek has collected five of the most memorable branded #Fails of the year. (Former IAC public relations chief Justine Sacco is off the hook here since she's not a brand—though her social media-based fall from grace might be the new standard for epic Twitter screwups.)

1. The Onion bombs—badly

This popular comedy publication used the c-word ("c**t") to describe charming 9-year-old actress Quvenzhané Wallis during the Oscars because its social media team, apparently, thought that'd be hilarious. America was aghast. The tweet was ultimately deleted, and the brand's CEO Steve Hannah issued an apology the next day. Not. Funny.

2. Dopey Home Depot

The home improvement retailer has been an active college football advertiser for years. But the brand's tweet last month pushing its ESPN College Game Day sponsorship was a disaster tinged with racism. The image of a three young men—two African Americans and one in a gorilla suit—and the copy below it pretty much tell the story about why Twitter users were outraged. What was Home Depot's team thinking?

3. Nokia's F.U.

Nokia's New Zealand social media staff might have made the most mysterious #fail of 2013 when it randomly tweeted the following in November.

4. Who's tweeting? Not Burger King and Jeep

Change your passwords, big brands. In February, both Burger King and Jeep temporarily lost control of their Twitter feeds after an invasion by hackers. BK may have gotten the worst of it, as the hacker changed its name and logo to No. 1 rival McDonald's.

5. C'mon, Kenneth

While the U.S. government and populace grappled with an emerging Syria situation in late summer, Kenneth Cole took to Twitter to sell shoes while referencing the subject—which clearly had potential life-and-death consequences. It was the second time in three years in which the retailer caught criticism for entangling serious geo-political issues with sales.

@Chris_Heine Christopher Heine is a New York-based editor and writer.