Social Media – Unsuccessful Campaigns In India

Social Media Campaigns are talk of the town in the current business environment and everyone wishes to be on the band wagon as soon as possible. Firms ask for ROI and are not ready to compromise on their social media presence. Though the excitement and willingness to reach the customer in real time is understandable, lack of a basic understanding of issues at times leads to unsuccessful campaigns. Firms then are puzzled over the failure, as every weapon in the Armour had been tried to get the users talking positive about the brand.

Let’s glance through some of the failed social media campaigns in India for better comprehension of the issue. These Campaigns tried hard but couldn’t capture the user’s mindshare.

  1. Lal Krishan Advani’s Social Media Campaign :


We saw Advani becoming Ad -Vani with his aggressive ad words campaign targeting every Indian site. At one point there were only his ads on every site we browsed.  The first and foremost reason it failed – We hate Ads

This is what one of the bloggers had to say after watching several irritating ads depicting Mr. Advani as the change agent. Obviously it didn’t serve the purpose. Indian Lok Sabha elections were around the corner, and Mr. Advani felt the need to be on social media to promote his brand.

Reasons for Failure:

  • Instead of trying to engage users online, to write more about him, sharing his views on current affairs and interacting with users, his Social Media Team decided to develop innumerable ads and linked these ads and videos to different sites.
  • As and when the user would access these sites, he would either see an unwanted ad or a video and would end up spoiling his online experience. Therefore, instead of creating a positive buzz around him, these undesirable online activities ended up harming his brand and did no value addition to his image. Though his party won the election, the win had nothing to do with his online campaign.
  • Instead of trying to engage with users, he ended up forcing ads and videos on them, which were brutally discarded by the users
  1. No takers for Congress ‘Main Nahin Hum’ (‘we’ not ‘I’): This time the Congress party decided to present a tough competition to Mr. Advani and launched its own social media campaign. The Campaign tried highlighting Congress philosophy for the elections and ads/videos etc. were posted on almost all the major online platforms –Facebook, you tube, twitter etc. Things however didn’t work out and there were hardly any takers for the campaign


Reasons for failure:


  • The Campaign had to no clear message to engage users, which was unlike its rival BJP. Users who saw the ads/videos had no idea as to what to make out of this campaign.
  • The party members were not prompt in replying to comments made online and many a times comments and questions went unanswered
  • Party didn’t try to engage young users and focused only on the poor. Forgetting the fact that, it was the young generation using social media and not the poor. Campaign had an audience-message mismatch
  • The Campaign tagline wasn’t catchy enough. It had a low recall value
  • The tagline used was a part of the competitor’s election speech and hence many users found it funny that Congress couldn’t even conceptualize a new tagline


  1. Maruti Suzuki ‘Young Driver’ Contest:

Maruti Suzuki Launched the Young Driver Contest online, looking for the best young driver out there. The initiative was successful, but social media couldn’t contribute much in the success and most of it –as company sources analysed- was due to conventional marketing only.  The company couldn’t generate enough buzz and leads from Social Media


Reasons for failure:


  • Regular search on the internet didn’t throw up much information about its online presence. The Buzz on social media was missing.
  • Written content on internet didn’t have mention of the opinion leaders. For instance, car experts or magazines
  • A dedicated application would have been better
  • There were no efforts from the company’s end to engage users online


This sets the stage for certain do’s and Don’ts’s in social media:

  • Keep revising your campaign strategy based on user feedback. Don’t wait for all the negative comments to pile up for taking action.
  • Engage with users and don’t force content on them.
  • Don’t oversell yourself. Social Media is not about you, but the users. Talk about a topic related to your product/service and then gradually move on to talking about your product.
  • Be ethical. Users do understand the intricacies of the content being updated online. Don’t lay a claim on something which doesn’t belong to you
  • Less is more. Keep it short and sweet
  • Have a back-up plan, in case it doesn’t work out as intended
  • Create a buzz and involve influencers


Though it has become a necessity to be on social media, you should be careful while drafting your social media campaign strategy. Considerable difference exists between conventional and Social Media Marketing, which requires understanding of certain basic social marketing principles and their appropriate application. What has worked in conventional set up might be completely uncalled for in Social Media. Firms and Individuals need to imbibe this concept to capitalize on the Social Media Advantage.


Some examples of failed social media campaigns in India.

Social media campaigns can easily backfire if they cannot sustain screening from users. The marketers and online engagement teams within firms must be very careful in what they write or post while engaging with users online and also how they intend to engage the users. If there’s even a very small chance of the user feeling cheated or offended with the content of a post, it is better to not go ahead with it since you never know how strongly it may backfire on you. Below are some examples of Social media campaigns from India that have failed:

  1. Microsoft India XBOX: Although, the ad shown below could appeal to some users, saying you will have no interest in the Xbox 360 isn’t the smartest message they could put out. Need to be more careful with the content                                                                                                                                       .xbox-360-india-fail microsoft
  1. Flipkart Big Billion Day: Flipkart’s credibility was murdered on Social media forums when it’s Big Billion day execution could not live up to the expectations it had set through its online as well as offline campaign. The company was criticized heavily across various social media platforms for broken website, discounts on inflated prices and poor delivery. In run-up to the sale day, Flipkart had run aggressive social media campaign and the consumers felt cheated when it could not live-upto the hype it had created. The campaign was also dubbed as a publicity stunt at the cost of the consumer.
  2. Ford Figo India: Ford came under heavy criticism and issued a subsequent apology over an advertising campaign which depicts celebrities bound, gagged and stuffed into the boot of an Indian-made Ford Figo. The drawings attempt to exploit the Figo’s spacious cargo area with the punch line: ‘Leave your worries behind with the Figo’s extra-large boot’. One drawing features Paris Hilton with reality television counterparts Khloe, Kourtney and Kim Kardashian, who are tied up and bound while they squeeze into the back of the car. In a second drawing, former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi poses with three scantily clad women who are similarly bound and tied.                                                                                    offensive-ford-ad-1_1024-620x349 offensive-ford-ad-2_729-620x349
  1. Politician Lal Krishna Advani: Senior politician Lal Krishna Advani’s social media campaign irritated the users to say the least. As one blogger put it:

“We saw Advani becoming Ad -Vani with his aggressive adwords campaign targeting every Indian site. At one point there were only his ads on every site we browsed.  The first and foremost reason it failed – We hate Ads.”

The campaign was an attempt to bring in the conventional in-your-face advertising on social media.

  1. MTV India: Putting-up erroneous content in your customer-engagement posts can be embarrassing for you – the users will make sure you feel embarrassed. MTV India wished John Lennon a happy birthday and a joyous year ahead!!!                                                                                                                            MTV-india-john-lennon
  1. Star Sports India: Using the official engagement accounts – twitter, facebook etc and ensuring that only responsible folks have access to it is of utmost importance as Start Sports India found out when an offensive tweet (a hindi abusive word) in Nov 2013 was retweeted 104 times in a very short period of time before it was deleted. Even after deleting such posts/tweets, they continue to remain on the internet for ever and keep denting your brand image.

Some Examples of Failed Social Media Campaigns in India

Advani Election Campaign, 2009

L. K. Advani launched an aggressive ad words campaign targeting every Indian site. His ad were there on almost every second site one visited. Even if it projected BJP and Advani as the political fixtures using contemporary technologies to communicate with the masses, the campaign was largely advertisement campaign. Reasons why it failed to gain traction –

No interactive media – It was simply a branding campaign about a party and person who have been in forefront of Indian politics since ages. Social Media campaigns typically thrive on appeal, uniqueness, involvement it offers to the audience. In the absence of all these creative features it was simply a dud.

Dettol India Online Contest 2012

Dettol India launched a campaign specifically targeting the confident Indian male. The challenge was named “End of the Day Confidence Challenge”. It was a Facebook contest, where in the brand asked the men that if they are still confident by end of the day. Anyone who think that he was confident after 5 PM could post his picture or video. People would “Like” the picture or video and highest liked feature stood a chance of winning Adidas gift voucher worth INR 5,000.

The contest sounded interesting and promising but did not prove to be one. Some of the reason for failure were –

1) No product involvement – The gift vouchers belonged were of Adidas. It could have been more promotional to give Dettol gift vouchers.

2) Unclear message – Just posting a message of how you felt after 5 PM did not show any significance of any Dettol product.

3) Screening by online users – No one was sure of what were the mechanism to deal with bogus “Likes”. People knew this and criticised for the short sightedness.
4) Violation of Facebook guidelines – The Facebook page showed two options – to enter the contest and another to view the entries. Once a person would have posted his picture of video it was posted on his behalf on his Facebook timeline. This was clearly against the Facebook guideline of use. This also invited rebuke from online users.
Ford Figo Online Contest 2012

On the occasion of completing two years in India Ford Figo launched campaign celebrating its 2nd birthday during entire March of 2012. The celebration in the form of a contest called “B’Day 2 Remember” could be seen on Figo’s website as well as social media such as Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.

Contest page showed some interesting videos in the form of invite and asked you to join. To join the contest one had to –

1) Invite 5 more friends and spread the word about birthday party.

2) Tweet invitation to increase your chances of winning.

3) Fill up a form with a birthday message.

The basic idea of the campaign was quick, simple and “inviting” but it failed to generate traction. Reason being –

Screening by the users. The app flouted the Facebook guidelines and did not ask for permission before posting it to user timelines. Also there was no clear information about how the contest was going to be judged. This could not escape the notice of users and slowly campaign lost its credibility.

Yet another example of alertness of social media users!!

Failed Social Media Campaigns !!!

Examples of failed social media campaigns in India.


Ad-vani’s Political Campaign:


Indian politician Lalchand Kishan Advani, tried to position himself in lines of Obama as a ‘change agent’. He spent huge money for his genuinely pathetic ad campaigns. He literally targeted all the Indian sites with his aggressive Adwords. Perhaps, while promoting himself insanely he forgot that ‘Advani is not a new product on the market’ which needs crazy branding!


Instead of connecting to the people online in a non-intrusive manner or mobilizing the bloggers to write about him, he preferred spamming the sites of the whole wide India. His blog also didn’t seem to appeal to the audience much and he failed both in the elections, and on social media.

At one point there were only his ads on every site we browsed. The first and foremost reason it failed – We hate Ads.


In one of my earlier posts, I have mentioned about some of the most successful social media campaigns of India done beautifully by some very good brands such as National Geographic, Oreo and Signature. There were many more brands which did a fairly decent job in terms of the campaigns. In this post, I am going to talk about some of the unsuccessful social media campaigns happened in the past years within India. I will also mention about some of the most illogical blunders done by very famous established brands at social media.

#agarmakadudhpiahaito BY FORTIS HEALTHCARE

When you’re celebrating a Breast Feeding Week, you don’t come up with hashtags spewed by villains in 80s. But Fortis did. Mamma Mia, an initiative by Fortis Healthcare, decided to celebrate that Breast Feeding Week by asking it users to tweet using #AgarMaKaDudhPiaHaiTo. But you wouldn’t mess it up further like Fortis did. As it spawned negative reactions, they came up with a lame apology that their account was hacked. Serious dearth of reputation management! How can a mature brand like Fortis can do such a blunder at Social Media. Looked like one of the kids designed the social media campaign for them and then came up with the excuse that it was not him.


Burger King made an epic miscalculation when they came up with a Facebook “Whopper sacrifice” campaign that asked their fans to grab a discount by ‘unfriending’ 10 friends. Burger king offered a free hamburger to anyone who severed the sacred bonds with 10 of the friends they had accumulated on Facebook. Facebook soon came forward and asked them to withdraw the campaign which was a serious damage to their business model. However, almost 234,000 friends were terminated by the fans by then and created criticisms elsewhere in social media.


When Volkswagen India’s print campaign which had a small vibrator box pasted to their print ad received widespread criticism, they made matters worse in Twitter. When people started tweeting in absolute mockery, portraying the ‘vibrator’ campaign to be a women’s favourite, the company lashed out in a tweet that “women would be dumb to call it a vibrator. Or maybe they do not understand real driving experience. #PunIntended #Volkswagen #Creative”. The company was forced to take down the offensive tweet and apologized and then later came the same old excuse: Our Twitter account got compromised. We are investigating the issue. It is difficult to understand how these mature brands can hire such immature people who just post anything on the company’s official social media account. Is there no screening happening for each of the social media communication?

‘Like’ a tweet? – INOX

Character limitations in Twitter tend to create typos. But, does it create things that don’t belong to this micro-blogging platform? INOX, in one of its tweet promotions asked the followers to like a tweet. How can your social media manager mix Facebook with Twitter. Similar thing was done by Ford Fiesta, when one fine day it posted on Twitter “A very good morning everyone. Hit like if you had a fun weekend!”. These are silly mistakes which lot of brands are doing these days, probably because either the social media managers are not serious enough, or the brand is not serious enough towards its social media communication.


Indian politician Lalchand Kishan Advani, tried to position himself in lines of Obama as a ‘change agent’.  He spent an average of Rs. 250 crores for his genuinely pathetic ad campaigns. He literally targeted all the Indian sites with his aggressive Adwords. Perhaps, while promoting himself insanely he forgot that ‘Advani is not a new product on the market’ which needs crazy branding!

Instead of connecting to the people online in a non-intrusive manner or mobilizing the bloggers to write about him, he preferred spamming the sites of the whole wide India.  His blog also didn’t seem to appeal to the audience much and he failed both in the elections, and on social media.

One of the famous Indian blogger writes about Advani’s campaign as follows:

“We saw Advani becoming Ad -Vani with his aggressive adwords campaign targeting every indian site. At one point there were only his ads on every site we browsed.  The first and foremost reason it failed – We hate Ads.”

What are some examples of failed social media campaigns in India?

India is still in the nascent stage when it comes to accessing the vast potential of social media marketing. Many companies and organizations have attempted to use Social Media as part of their Marketing strategy. The following are some examples of India social media campaigns that were unsuccessful or failed due to varied number of reasons
Breastfeeding Week Campaign by Fortis Healthcare invited one liners for a contest on social media that spiralled into negative reactions. It was too late before Fortis could regain control. However they had to stop the campaign on social media as the campaign came nowhere close to the intended outcome and marred the reputation of the company.
Volkswagen’s ‘Feel the Shiver of excitement’ campaign on Times of India generated lot of negative responses on social media and later became distasteful when Volkswagen referred to ‘women as dumb’ if they related the campaign to a vibrator. Volkswagen had to deal with considerable embarrassment and negative reactions due to unexpected consequences and their derogatory statement about women.
MTV India ended up wishing John Lennon ‘a joyous year ahead’ on his birth anniversary spurring lot of negative comments from fans. MTV apologized but blamed trolls for the failure of the campaign.
Burger King asked their fans to unfriend 10 friends on Facebook for one of their social media campaigns. Facebook saw this as a threat to their business model and ask them to withdraw their campaign. However, by the time the campaign was withdrawn fans unfriended many friends and this generated a lot of criticism on social media.
Flipkart’s Big billion day was supposed to a nationwide campaign on both traditional and social media platforms. Flipkart had to face lot of criticism as its sites adopted illegal pricing tactics and also the stocks dint last as expected. Furthermore domain name was used by Flipkart’s competition as a result of which Google search listed down Flipkart’s competition names instead of Flipkart. The whole campaign seriously damaged the trust and reputation of the brand and the founders had to write an apology to all its customers.
Social media is a powerful platform that if used in the wrong way can prove disastrous for the brand image of the product or company. Many campaigns fail because they treat social media as just another medium of communication. They forget that the companies are dependent on the people to make the campaigns work. The ‘social’ in social media is crucial and one that determines whether the campaign will be successful or not. Let us highlight some of the reasons why social media campaigns fail
– Company do not have a goal for their social media campaigns
– Too much selling and less of building relationships
– Misunderstanding how social media actually works
– Culture and sensitivity issues are overlooked
– Hiring a wrong agency that is not able to connect the brand with the customers can prove costly
– Ads and campaigns are not consistent with the brand image and values of the company
– No consistency between various marketing channels
– The campaigns are not creative and do not invoke interest
– Campaigns are targeted at wrong audience or social network

Failed Social Media Campaigns in India

According to some of the media reports I read, Indian organizations these days are using social media much more than the global average and their counterparts in emerging economies. Study of social media marketing among various social media-savvy organizations in India has thrown up some good insights.

With high adoption of social media platforms for advertisement in India, there are bound to be some campaigns that didn’t take off as expected or fell flat on face. Few of such campaigns that I can think of are –

  1. Blackberry India launched a 360 degree marketing campaign named “Action Starts Here” two years back. It also did an extensive campaign on social media and we try to find out how effectively it was done on various platforms.
    Blackberry, that was once widely referred as “Crackberry” due to the addictiveness of the device is dying a slow death. This comes at the time when the brand has been struggling after brands like iPhone and Android came into action and swamped the market shares. Since then Blackberry has been submerged either in technical issues or political controversies.
    Pundits have written it off but the brand is not yet ready to leave the forte. However, the brand seems not to be in any mood to bow down soon so it has launched an actionable 360 degree campaign first in Thailand and later followed it in India.
    The essence of the campaign was to find out what does Blackberry stand for and the answer was “Action” and the action starts right away from Blackberry. Hence, the campaign focused on “Action has a symbol” and the brand line was “Action starts here”.
    Along with other channels, the brand made sure that the campaign was not to be missed out on the social front too. The Facebook community of Blackberry India, witnessed the “Action Campaign” with an interesting contest followed by some engaging content. The brand designed a Facebook contest where it asked fans if there was something that they would like to change about their world, then what would it be. A mobile app was designed too to cover all bases. However even though the campaign was able to generate some buzz, it didn’t translate in engagement. The outcome, management was expecting was not achieved and heavy investment in both social and traditional media didn’t give returns.
  2. The second example that comes to my mind is the Flipkart Big billion day:
    The campaign used YouTube, Twitter and television to stream ads about much hyped big sale on Flipkart declared October 06th as a sale that has never happened in India with unbelievable discounts.
    However, when users tried to login early morning many of the discounted prices were not available or rather priced very high and then marked down by discount. These pricing tricks didn’t go well with customers.

Few of the learning from this case are –

–  A massive campaign like the one we witnessed above will attract people   from all sides. So make sure you one is able to ride on customer’s expectation. Such a campaign if not executed properly will benefit your rival businesses like it did to Snapdeal. Both ended up earning $100 million. So who is the real winner?

-Try not to fool your customers by inflating the prices of goods and then offering them at discounted rates. This is the world of social media.