See what I did? I made a mistake in the headline of this post. And I did it on purpose.

Publishing an error on a client’s social media platforms is a terrifying proposition – a deep-seated fear that lives in the minds of almost every social media manager. From an obvious typo, to accidentally posting something meant for a personal account, the possibilities of screwing up are endless. And, it’s pretty easy to do.

But now, making calculated mistakes is a trend that’s starting to gain traction in social.

It started back in 2014 when JCPenney tweeted drunk-like posts during the Super Bowl. News outlets, brands and people on Twitter were quick to draw attention to the brand’s page. Only after the initial dust up was it revealed that the company was “tweeting with mittens on.” Mittens from its new Olympic collection that, let’s face it, you’d likely never have heard of without the publicity garnered from their awkward tweets.



According to reports, the #TweetingWithMittens micro campaign garnered 50,000 RT (retweets), 8,500 new Twitter followers and 300,000+ positive media impressions. And, amazingly, JCPenney was the second most talked about brand on Twitter during the Super Bowl.

In the last week Hostess posted the image below of its delicious cupcakes. Consumers and media outlets alike were quick to call out the brand’s blunder in mixing up its sports terminology. Pubs like Sports Illustrated, USA Today and The Today Show all covered the social post.



Hostess’s Senior Director of Marketing, Ellen Copaken, said during a CNBC interview, “Since embarking on the ‘Sweetest Comeback in the History of Ever’ nearly two years ago, Hostess has employed a strategy aimed at contemporizing the brand. The bolder approach has been particularly visible on the brand’s social media platforms. The ‘Touchdown’ line was intentional; it’s fun and aimed at young audiences who are in on the running joke — which, of course, is the goalllll.”

At Smith Brothers, we applaud a social publishing strategy that encourages this kind of boldness in posting. In this particular case, the intentional gaffe made by Hostess generated so many free media impressions AND appealed so clearly to their fans and target, it was an undeniable winner (every pun intended).

Things to consider when planning to “flub” a post to appeal to fans:

  1. Is the mistake big and embarrassing enough to get wide scale attention?
  2. Is your brand big enough that people will imagine real consequences for the mistake?
  3. Will people even see the post, or should you pay to promote it to ensure visibility? and
  4. Will deliberately screwing up be appealing to your fans and/or garner you new ones?

As marketers, we all know that it’s sometimes easier to “keep our heads down” and eschew moves that might be deemed too risky. But if you’re a brand trying to maximize a smaller social budget or trying to appeal to a target that responds to humor and “disruption,” then by all means, go for it!

If you’d like to talk about your publishing strategy, and explore how this kind of bold thinking can be put to work in the context of a robust overall social program, please give us a call.

Make no mistake, we can help.

Brandi Smith
Brandi Smith
Senior Social-Digital Strategist

A strategic communications professional with 10+ years of experience, Brandi has managed a plethora of award-winning public relations and social media campaigns on behalf of CPG brands. With an emphasis on consumer lifestyle, food, beverage and fashion clients, Brandi specializes in leading the integrated planning and execution of brand management strategies designed to generate both consumer awareness and engagement. Throughout her career, Brandi has served clients such as Kellogg’s, Kimberly-Clark, Jim Beam and White Wave Foods while employed at Ketchum.

After living in Chicago for a number of years, Brandi returned to her hometown of Pittsburgh. She holds a B.S. in Public Relations with a second concentration in Sport Management from West Virginia University.