Oh no they didn't! The most offensive brand tweets of all time

16th Apr 2014

This week witnessed a social media blooper of such staggering vulgarity that news about it swept around the globe. The US Airlines tweet was extraordinarily x-rated, but is just the latest exceedingly inappropriate brand message to bring filth to our feeds. 

In tribute to this latest social media faux pas, we recap some of the most controversial corporate tweets that the site has seen in its eight-year history.

US Airlines

Had you been listening hard enough on Monday afternoon, you could probably have heard the collective intake of breath from the people working at US Airlines HQ, as they realised what they’d just broadcast over Twitter. Of course, the 'delete tweet' button soon got a hammering – but not until almost an hour after the post had gone up. The length of time it took to remove the tweet is largely irrelevant though, because this was something that they could never undo - something that a simple delete button is powerless to reverse.

Yep, US Airlines will always be the brand who responded to a customer complaint with porn.  

Showing the already disgruntled passenger exactly where she could stick her complaint, US Airlines replied to her tweet regarding a delayed flight with an explicit, yet somewhat topical, image. We don’t need to talk about the picture – the toy plane and its inopportune landing spot need no explanation, even for those with the most tiresome sense of imagination.

The airline, realising it was in a position as compromising as that of the woman in the photo, issued an official apology, announcing that it was investigating the incident. It transpires that the image had originally been tweeted from another user to the company - which then flagged it as inappropriate before inadvertently including it in a please-don't-hate-us tweet. 


So, you want to get noticed on Twitter do you, Habitat? How about spamming people by using highly irrelevant trending hash tags of a rather sensitive nature?

Oh, it seems you've already tried that.

Habitat angered the world’s media, not to mention Twitter's user base, by spamming them with tweets about a sale on their furniture collection, promoted using the top hash tags of the day. Trending at this time was #Apple and #iPhone, as the 3G model had just been released, as well as topics related to the violence and unrest surrounding the Iranian elections. Anyone using the hash tags #Mousavi or #Iranelection to search for updates or discussions were instead informed about Habitat’s ‘totally desirable spring collection’ which was on sale at a 20% discount. People were not only angered only because of the spammy nature of the posts, but also, obviously, their brazen disrespect.

It may be that it was 2009 and people weren’t properly au fait with the whole hash tag thing. It may be that no one was monitoring the Habitat Twitter account. It maybe that Habitat was conducting an experiment into Twitter spam. Habitat though, maintain that it was an intern.

It’s always ‘the intern’.

Kenneth Cole

This company must either have been closed the day Habitat committed these social crimes or else simply forgotten about them, because it did something pretty similar itself a couple of years later. It’s now 2011 and Egypt is awash with violent riots and strikes. Apparently, Kenneth Cole felt that the Cairo hash tag was the perfect way to promote its new spring collection, suggesting that the chaos in Cairo was in response to the new clothing releases having become available online. 

The 'uproar' got a little closer to home after this was sent out, with bloggers and tweeters firing a shower of disapproving tweets in the direction of the brand. This time, interns aren’t taking the rap though – it was Kenneth himself who fashioned the oh-so-un-PC tweet.

American Red Cross

The American Red Cross HQ is party central, it would seem. Either that, or the workings of HootSuite were still a bit of a mystery to its official tweeter back in 2011. For the sake of anyone needing the Red Cross’ medical attention let’s hope it’s the latter scenario, because who knows where they would end up sticking that needle after so many beers...

This personal tweet was accidently broadcast from the official Red Cross account. We imagine it’s not quite the image that the humanitarian institution was really going for.  But then, accidents will happen when people are over excited and all, er, "slizzerd".

This one has a happy ending though (for the Red Cross at least – who knows what become of the red-faced employee?), with the Dogfish Head brand using the incident to drive donations to the Red Cross. 

Cricket Australia

While sports fans often voice their rage over Twitter during a game, it’s usually best for the organisation they’re supporting to keep out of the rally of expletives that goes back and forth between them. However, during last year’s Ashes series, Cricket Australia got right in there, bowling an unexpected #Bullshit curve ball in response to a poor decision from the umpire. 

The whole affair clearly taught the Cricket Australia nothing about professional social media etiquette, as they went on to post an even more controversial - and pretty racist, some may argue - tweet a few months later. Featuring four bearded men sporting turbans and dressed as Teletubbies, the image was aimed at England player Monty Panesar who, it had just been announced, was returning to the team.

Well, they say things come in threes, so who knows what Cricket Australia have up their sleeve for the next series...

The Onion

You know that friend you have with the quick wit and great sense of humour, but absolutely no censor button or concept of ‘the line’? You know how they just take things too far sometimes and cause mass cringes among those around them? The virtual equivalent is perhaps The Onion – a satirical American news publication.

It’s loved for its risqué sense of humour and willingness to push the boundaries of what's acceptable. However, it seemed to smash those boundaries right down and trample all over them last year, when it sent a controversial tweet during the Oscars.

The Onion not only dropped the C-bomb. It dropped it on a child

“Everyone else seems afraid to say it, but that Quvenzhané Wallis is kind of a [see-you-next-Tuesday], right?”

Clearly, it was meant to be taken for the sarcastic comment that it was written as, and was not supposed to offend the adorable little ten-year-old girl who was at the Oscars with an equally adorable puppy handbag and spent the evening just being generally adorable. But you can see how it failed. The Onion isn’t big on apologies, but it made an exception on this occasion.

Susan Boyle

Inappropriate hash tags seem to be the most trending of Twitter fails. This one promoting the Britain’s Got Talent star’s album release was clearly an unfortunate coincidence. Who knew that when you take away the spaces between the words ‘Susan’s album party’, you're actually alluding to a get-together of an entirely different nature?

The poor PR who came up with that corker of a hash tag must have turned all the shades of pink once they’d cottoned onto its alternative meaning. Either that, or they were sporting a smug face and given a pat on the back for the amount of publicity they drummed up.

It’s no surprise that this went onto become one of the most used hash tags of all time. Sounds like less of a fail when you put it like that, doesn’t it?

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