Fear of failure is the reason why many major brands fail to achieve their potential in their social media marketing endeavors. There have been no shortage of truly monstrous epic fails which have arisen from marketing concepts which might have sounded like they were feasible to somebody before they were issued to nearly universal derision. It is this history which has made many online marketers gunshy to the point of inaction so that they don’t lead their own brands down the same path to the flames of InterHades. Fair enough, there have been many disastrous social media posts which have managed to demolish an entire company’s image in the eyes of its customers and which are worth studying if for no other reason than to avoid repeating their errors:

1. Luton Airport – Of all the things you would assume would be off limits to joke about if you are operating one of the four major international airports in the London area, plane crashes would definitely be at the top of the list. Right? Wrong. Luton Airport management tweeted a photo of a lethal Southwest Airlines 2005 crash at Chicago Midway in heavy snow with the caption: “Because we are such a super airport….this is what we prevent you from when it snows……Weeeee :)”.

2. Amy’s Baking Company – This is the number one ranked disaster in just about anyone’s list of epic fails of monstrous proportions. It all started when Gordon Ramsay visited the restaurant as part of his Kitchen Nightmares TV series and sparked countless flames mostly issuing from Reddit and Yelp. The reaction of the couple that owns the restaurant has made internet history and is worth savoring… especially when they wanted to take all the stupidity back and claimed that someone had hacked into their account as they would never say anything that nasty.

3. Kenneth Cole – Apparently not learning from their social media disaster sparked by a very inappropriate Arab Spring tweet in 2011, the clothing manufacturer decided to plunge back into Middle Eastern affairs by playing on a quote about “Boots on the ground in Syria” by stating that “let’s not forget about sandals, pumps, and loafers.” The internet world is now anxiously awaiting how Kenneth Cole is going to put a marketing spin on ISIS beheaders.

4. Epicurious – The Boston Marathon bombing had just shed a pall across the nation and many companies tweeted their support and encouragement for the great Massachusetts city and its citizens. Epicurious joined in by offering the people of the city what they really really really wanted at a time such as that: “In honor of Boston and New England may we suggest: whole-grain cranberry scones!”

5. Pepsi – Cristiano Ronaldo is one of the most famous soccer players in the world and has millions of international fans, so you really have to wonder what the folks at Pepsi were thinking when they created a voodoo doll version of the great sports star and showed its head crushed on some train tracks. Ronaldo fans swiftly gathered more than 100,000 followers of an anti-Pepsi group and forced the company to pull the image.

6. The Gap – Superstorm Sandy was approaching the northeastern seaboard, so The Gap encouraged people in the area to shop online so that they wouldn’t have to face the dangers of the hurricane while they trudged home with their bags full of Gap gear. Yeah, like during Sandy people were really concerned about getting a new pair of khakis.

7. Burger King – In what has to be one of the most bizarre social media campaigns in history, Burger King decided that they were going to provide a coupon for a free Whopper to everyone who removed ten of their Facebook friends. What part of the “adding friends is good in social media” lesson did this burger chain not understand in Online Marketing 101… and why would any brand want to encourage their customers to have fewer connections on social media?

These are truly monstrous epic fails in online marketing and your brand should never tread anywhere near these truly disastrous and miserable social media stupidities!