Top 5 Companies That Failed To Protect Their Online Reputation

You likely already heard the story where a Domino’s employee saved the life of a customer. It saw their online reputation soar. This is an example of taking advantage of an opportunity for the benefit of your company. But for every great example of proactive online reputation building, there are ten companies that destroyed years of progress in the blink of an eye.

Here are some examples of the top companies that failed to protect their online reputation when the haters attacked.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at
Image courtesy of Stuart Miles at

Turner Broadcasting

In 2007, Turner Broadcasting, which owns Cartoon Network, decided to promote a new cartoon by creating a series of LED signs. They posted the signs around cities in the US. It was hoped that people would find the devices cool and would convince people to find out more.

The problem was the whole thing turned into a major terrorism scare because a resident in Boston mistakenly thought they were bombs. Nearly the entire public transport system of that city was brought to a halt. It cost people their jobs and cost the network millions.

And all this could have been avoided by simply conducting some basic market research.

Kenneth Cole

There are certain attention grabbing Tweets that grab attention for all the wrong reasons. Back in 2011, the Arab Spring was in full swing and the entirety of Egypt was up in arms as they revolted against their government. Kenneth Cole tried to make light of this through controversy advertising by saying in a Tweet that they were up in arms because the new Kenneth Cole spring collection had just been released.

This is a case where controversial content actually became highly offensive to the vast majority of people. It saw a global backlash against the company. Luckily, Kenneth Cole reacted in the right way by removing the Tweet and apologizing immediately, thus limiting the damage.


 Sometimes it’s necessary to opt for a rebrand and change your logo. Gap tried this in 2010 and they received a huge backlash. It happened because the company didn’t attempt to ask their customers what they thought of the new logo. They just released it.

Not only did people hate the redesigned logo but they hated it because it didn’t reflect them. Gap is known for selling retro and trendy styles, so why would the company create a modern and streamlined logo? It’s a complete contradiction of what they stand for.

The logo was shelved after a mere two days. This should serve as a prime example that you have to make sure that you understand your target audience at all times. In a study of 4,000 marketers, customer satisfaction was the main influencer metric, so that should show you the importance of listening to your target market.

Netflix and Qwikster

Qwikster was once a separate company from Netflix in 2011. It was formed in order to separate the digital streaming part of Netflix with the mail-order DVD rental company that Netflix was running at the time. The problem was that it cost 60% more to take advantage of both services and it only made things more complicated.

Customers reacted badly because not only did they have to pay more but they had to pay more for a system that wasn’t easy to use.

It damaged the company’s online reputation in the short-term because it demonstrated a complete disregard for their target audience. In the long-term, the success of Netflix demonstrates that they have firmly put this behind them, but this mistake cost them almost a million subscribers.

The New York Times

The New York Times once offered discounted rates for people who unsubscribed from the paper. It was assumed that this offer would only be extended to unsubscribed users. The problem was an employee accidentally sent the email to everyone who held an active subscription with the New York Times.

Customers complained that they wanted the discounted rate as well. The company quickly apologized, but it demonstrates how closely you have to monitor your mailing campaigns before you send them.

How to Keep Your Company’s Online Reputation in Check

These five companies made huge mistakes when it came to protecting their online reputation. And it all happened because of carelessness and making assumptions. The vast majority of these mistakes could have been avoided through some simple research.

But they all reacted well by offering an apology and compensation. These brands were run by skilled and successful entrepreneurs so were able to recover. And that’s why they are among the most powerful brands in the world today.


Contact Us