Small business lessons from 5 corporate fails of 2018

Learn from their mistakes

As a small business owner, you can learn valuable lessons from the social media mistakes and other corporate fails that bigger businesses sometimes make. If you pay attention, you can use these examples of what not to do to make better choices for your own brand.

Related: The rulebook for crafting a response to negative comments on social media

5 corporate fails of 2018

These are some of the biggest missteps, mistakes and PR disasters to learn from:

Apple throttles battery life

Though technically the controversy started in late 2017, Apple made headlines in early 2018 when it was reported that the company was intentionally throttling the performance of their older models of iPhone.

Multiple users posted objective evidence online that their phone’s performance was being intentionally slowed, and Apple acknowledged this (and claimed their place among corporae fails), insisting it was done to preserve battery life.

Users were outraged, and Apple was forced to make amends, offering a discounted battery replacement for older iPhone models through the end of 2018.

Snapchat makes light of domestic abuse

Back in March, Snapchat invited a host of criticism and the attention of corporate fails followers when it ran an ad that prompted users to answer a question of “would you rather,” with the options to “Slap Rihanna” or “Punch Chris Brown.”

As many users pointed out, the tone deaf ad appeared to make light of domestic abuse — and even warranted a direct response and condemnation from Rihanna herself.

Snapchat insisted that the ad was never meant to be approved, and that it was circulated by mistake, but Rihanna refused to accept their apology.

The New York Times refers to millennials as snake people

In May, The New York Times published an article about President Trump’s latest stance on trade, but it featured a quote from Time Magazine that seemed out of place. A later editorial admitted that the culprit was a satirical web browser plugin that automatically converted the word “millennial” to “snake people.” Of course, the real culprit was a staff member of The New York Times failing to check their work for errors — and committing one of the most visible of corporate fails.

H&M lands in hot water over a racist ad

The Swedish retailer H&M released an ad featuring a black child wearing a hoodie with the phrase “Coolest Monkey in the Jungle.” It didn’t take long for the ad to circulate across social media, and for critics to lambaste the ad’s racist overtones.

This was an especially egregious offense because it’s not the first time the company’s been criticized for a lack of diversity. In response, the company hired a diversity manager and thoroughly apologized for the incident.

PepsiCo mishandles Lady Doritos

You’ve probably heard about Lady Doritos already, but you might not be aware of the corporate fails that led to it becoming such a hotly contested subject. It stems from a Freakonomics interview with PepsiCo CEO Indra Nooyi, who explained that the company was using gender differences to make better products tailored to each gender.

Her choice of words led consumers to believe that the company was creating a separate line of Doritos especially for women — and were outraged at the notion.

Of course, such a product was never in development. This one is attributable to a poor choice of words, and a voracious social media audience ready to pounce.

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Key lessons from corporate fails

So what are our key takeaways here?

Get ahead of bad news

It’s inevitable that your company is going to have some bad news. It’s not a question of if, but when. And when bad news unfolds, it’s in your best interest to get ahead of it as soon as possible. Your customers will favor a proactive warning much more than a reactive attempt to make up for what’s already transpired.

Double check everything

It only takes a few minutes to proofread your work and avoid an embarrassing message, so make the investment. Getting someone else to look over your social media post, or your message to consumers can spare you the embarrassment of sending out a tasteless joke, or letting a typo damage your reputation.

Consult a diverse group of people

There are thousands of different groups of people out there, so if you’re only relying on one group to create, review and distribute your messaging, sooner or later, you’ll end up on the list of corporate fails. Make sure you’re relying on a diverse group of people to create and review all your content.

Avoid fails

You might not be able to protect your business from every mistake, but you can learn to avoid the type of corporate fails covered above (and smoothly compensate for the rest). As you venture forth, keep these corporate fails in mind, and don’t stop proactively protecting your business from experiencing something similar.