With Halloween quickly approaching, we thought it only appropriate we share some of the most infamous Instagram marketing horror stories. So read on…. if you dare. Here are 5 Instagram marketing horror stories that will make your blood run cold (or at least make you cringe). One thing is for sure, they’ll all make you reconsider how you market on Instagram!

1. Sunny Co. Clothing: When a Giveaway Goes Too Viral

Who wouldn’t want a free swimsuit?

To promote their new Baywatch-themed swimsuit, Sunny Co. Clothing announced that everyone who reposted and tagged their photo, within 24 hours, would receive a free $65 swimsuit.

Sunny Co Clothing Instagram Post - Instagram Marketing Horror Stories

The problem? The post went viral with over 3,000 reposts in the first few hours. That was not what Sunny Co. Clothing was expecting.

Every brand dreams of their giveaway going viral. For Sunny Co. Clothing, however, it was a living nightmare. As if going “too viral” could have ever been conceived as a problem, the company couldn’t keep up with their promise. They released a statement saying that “the viral volume of participants” gave it the right to cap the promotion. Needless to say, their followers were not happy. Sunny Co. Clothing not only had a major PR problem on their hands, but an inbox brimming with messages from angry customers.

2. Bootea Shake: A Copy and Paste Nightmare

Are you really marketing on Instagram if you’ve never hired an influencer before?

Influencer marketing has been a huge moneymaker for brands on Instagram over the last decade. The challenge for marketers is ensuring that your influencers are representing your brand with relevant, appropriate, and grammatically correct content. It’s not uncommon for marketers to save their influencers the trouble by writing a post for them. What could ever wrong? Famous last words…

In the case of former Keeping Up with the Kardashians personality Scott Disick, a lot could go wrong. Scott was asked to post for Bootea Shake and even had the post pre-written by their marketing team. Scott copied and pasted their exact wording into his Instagram post. Perfect. But he also copied and pasted their posting instructions. Yikes!

Bootea Shake Post - Instagram Marketing Horror Stories

Influencer endorsements are supposed to feel sincere. We, as consumers, want to believe that influencers are promoting brands they truly love. Seeing the posting instructions from Bootea Shake’s marketing team felt a tad disingenuous. As you can see from the comments above, people couldn’t stop roasting Scott for his mistake—which in turn reflected poorly on Bootea Shake. What a nightmare!

3. Reformation: Alexa, what does decorum mean?

You know how they say the higher risk, the higher reward? Well, fashion brand Reformation rolled the dice on this now infamous Instagram post and came up with snake eyes.

Reformation Instagram Post - Instagram Marketing Horror Stories

Now, we’re not exactly sure what the thought process was behind this photoshoot and its corresponding post. Reformation’s marketing team may have thought it was edgy. Or perhaps it was an act of transparency. Either way, advertising the return of their popular guava dress on Instagram with a photo of a model posing on a factory table as workers toiled in the background led to a lot of controversy for Reformation.

A lot of followers found the post tasteless and offensive. The Instagram user @loveannax even went as far as calling out the brand’s social media manager. All we can hope is that a lesson in decorum was learned from this blunder.

4. Fyre Festival: Where There is Smoke There is Fyre

Picture this—thousands of people stranded on a deserted island, fighting over food, water, and shelter. Sounds like the start of a horror movie, right? Well…

Promoted by famous influencers including Hailey Baldwin, Kendall Jenner, and Bella Hadid, Fyre Festival was advertised as a glamorous party on an island in The Bahamas. With tickets costing up to $100,000, guests were promised luxury accommodations, gourmet food, and live music. What they received, however, was a bit different.

Guests arrived on the island to mattresses on rain-soaked floors, meals of cheese slices on bread, and their luggage thrown into an unlit parking lot. When one guest tweeted a photo of his “gourmet dinner”, the whole internet lost it.

Fyre Twitter Post - Instagram Marketing Horror Stories

After months of being hyped as the event of the century, Fyre Festival turned into the scam of the decade. Guests demanded refunds on their tickets and airfare, several local workers who spent months preparing for the festival never received payment, and the founder of Fyre has since been convicted of fraud and sentenced to six years in jail.

How did this all start? With the infamous orange tile.

Fyre Orange Tile - Instagram Marketing Horror Stories

To promote the Fyre Festival, founder Billy Mcfarland and his team asked high-end influencers to post an orange tile on their Instagram page on the exact same day. Nearly 400 influencers, dubbed as “Fyre Starters,” having hundreds of thousands of followers each, posted the same bright orange tile on Instagram in unison. To be honest, it worked. It drummed up an incredible amount of excitement. Too bad Billy and his team couldn’t execute on the actual event once the match was lit.

5. Zpalette: A Lesson You Can’t Afford to Miss

Want really simple business advice? Treat your customers well. They’re the ones keeping you in business.

Zpalette set an example of how not to treat your customers. When the brand released its $85 Z Potter product, customers were not happy. Followers flooded Zpallete’s Instagram account with comments questioning the hefty price tag. And Zpalette responded…unfortunately.

Zpalette Comments Section

“It’s not that it’s expensive, it’s that you can’t afford it.”

Chrissy Teigen Gif

It doesn’t take a marketing professional to understand that calling your customers cheap isn’t a good business practice. Negative comments were met with snarky responses from Zpalette’s social media team, while positive comments were rewarded with discount codes. This did not go over well with Zpalettes clientele.

To address the backlash, the brand released a lackluster statement which tried to call out the commenters of the original post as those looking to jump on a bandwagon or get followers. When customers started boycotting the brand, the statement was deleted.

Don’t you just love a self-righteous villain/antagonist?

The Takeaway

The truly chilling thought for business owners should be all the opportunities they’re missing out on due to someone mishandling their social media accounts. Social channels such as Instagram provide your company with a platform to share your brand’s voice and interact with your customers. Unfortunately, things don’t always go as planned. After having read through these Instagram marketing horror stories, you may want to ask yourself who’s managing your company’s social media. If you’re in the need of a professional social media marketing team, look no further! Contact Set Fire Creative today and receive a free consultation.