The biggest social media controversies of 2014

Social media might be a great platform to connect with customers and audience but it is a double-edged sword. Quite often, in their zeal to make an impact, brands commit a faux pas that continues to haunt them. We list 5 of the biggest controversies to have hit brands on social media this year

e4m by Abhinn Shreshtha
Updated: Dec 30, 2014 8:54 AM
The biggest social media controversies of 2014

Social media might be a great platform to connect with customers and audience but it is a double-edged sword. Quite often, in their zeal to make an impact, brand commit a faux pas that continues to haunt them. Here, we list 5 of the biggest controversies to have hit brands on social media this year, in no particular order:

Amul v/s Neha Tomar
Gurgaon resident Neha Tomar had a strange experience with a packet of Amul Gold milk, which she decided to share on Facebook. Amul, being the social savvy brand that it is, replied back promptly with a post of their own, along with a video clarification explaining what they called “stretching property of milk”. It was fine till here, but Amul then made some interesting accusations. It said that the customer was using her “official capacity” to make the complaint. Amul also claimed that the pictures and post by Tomar were posted on October 9, 2014, a day prior to her actually having the problems and the date had been subsequently changed. Amul got pats on the back by users for its prompt response and the matter might have ended there but then things got murkier.

Neha Tomar denied both allegations and some observant users theorized that the screenshot posted by Amul to support their claim could have been tampered with by pointing out irregularities in the photos shared by Amul. The original Amul post from October 14, 2014 can be viewed here, where one can see the differences in both screenshots as well as difference in the font colour ( Interestingly, the “October 9” screenshot seems to represent a user who is logged out as one can see the “Keep me logged in” box to the right and the “Sign Up” button on the left. Amul has not replied to these allegations yet. 

Tomar, on her part, posted a lengthy reply in the comments section of the post, expressing her disappointment and accusing Amul of misrepresenting facts. Lighthouse Insights has a guest post by the consumer explaining her side of the story in detail, which can be viewed here (

Did Amul actually tamper with the screenshots to make its position stronger? Is it a case of a brand trying too hard to avoid tarnishes to its reputation even at the cost of misrepresentation of facts? Readers can make their own judgement about what the truth of the matter is.

Zomato Hiring Ad
Zomato’s tongue-in-cheek attempt to woo techies away from Bangalore to Delhi might have seemed innocent and quirky at first glance but it did not go down all that well, as the brand discovered later. Zomato learned the hard way that not everybody loves the funny guy, especially when urban pride is at stake.

In May, Zomato put up its ad claiming it wanted to make Delhi the new tech capital of the country. It then proceeded to enumerate the numerous advantages of Delhi over Bangalore, which included no curfews (“cops don’t chase you out of a bar when you need a drink or two”), low rents (“Our freshers don’t have to sell their kidneys to put down the deposit”), before ending with “Delhi is racially embracing. It serves all kind of cuisines”) Now, perhaps many of us would not find anything too offensive about it but there were those who thought Zomato went a little too far with its humour.

We don’t think the people at Zomato thought it would create the storm that it did but Bangalore natives took umbrage and what followed was a social media blitz of outrage. There also seems to have been a campaign to give the app lower ratings on the Play Store, which saw its overall rating drop. Finally, after a day of facing everything from references to rapes and suggestions that the company was out to create a racial divide, Zomato Founder and CEO put up a post apologizing for hurting sentiments while maintaining that some of the retorts were uncalled for. The ad was also taken down. You can read the official apology statement here -

HUL Benefits From Snapdeal’s Misery
This was one of the more interesting cases in the year and showed how one brand’s social outrage can be another one’s manna from heaven.  In October, a Mumbai-based Facebook user posted that instead of a smartphone, which he had ordered from Snapdeal, he was sent a bar of Vim. The matter was quickly taken up by online users causing widespread ridicule directed at Snapdeal. Eventually Snapdeal representatives promised to look into the defaulting supplier and refunded the entire amount. 

But it got better for the user. HUL (which owns the brand Vim) came to know of the incident. In a move that could be the smartest piggyback in social media this year, HUL sent a letter of commiseration to the user, along with the smartphone he had ordered along with a couple of bottles of Vim liquid soap (which shows that HUL also has a sense of humor). The grateful user shared it on Facebook, giving HUL some well-deserved mileage and good will.

ToI’s Deepika Padukone Cleavage Pic Controversy 
It has been one of those years for ToI. There were rumors that ToI had asked employees to sign a social media policy.

Then there was the much publicized spat with HT regarding which is the most circulated newspaper in Delhi, where both brands tried to play a game of one upmanship, much to the amusement of observers.

But the one that seems to have hurt the brand the most was the public outrage surrounding a tweet with Deepika Padukone’s cleavage highlighted and the caption “OMG: Deepika Padukone’s cleavage show”. This unnecessary tweet generated a number of angry replies and before long Padukone herself responded with some scathing comments. ToI’s followup tweet also did not help matters.

Supposedly India's 'LEADING' newspaper and this is 'NEWS'!!??

— Deepika Padukone (@deepikapadukone) September 14, 2014

Other celebrities and Twitter users also expressed their solidarity and their indignation towards the Times of India. With public ire mounting with each passing day, ToI finally decided to publish a reply, which read, “Dear Deepika, our point of view...” in which it called Padukone a hypocrite and suggested that a controversy was created to promote her upcoming move, “Finding Fanny”. 

As might be expected, this did not placate anyone and could have just added more fuel to the fire. 

Flipkart Faces the Music For #BigBillionDaySale
A classic example of what can happen on social media if your customers are not happy. When Flipkart announced its Big Billion Day Sale in October, it was touted to be the biggest event of its kind in the Indian e-commerce space. The e-retailer did not waste any money or effort in publicizing the event, spending crores on print, digital and OOH campaigns. The day of the sale dawned and visitors were quickly finding themselves disappointed with out of stock products, website downtimes and other issues. This obviously meant that they turned to social media to vent their frustration. Spoof hashtags like #Failkart, #Flopkart, #Flippedkart were trending across Twitter and Facebook all day. 

Such was the ire that Flipkart’s founders had to issue an apology to users, which of course did mollify most users but what should have been one of the biggest days for the company (and it probably was in terms of sales and revenues) was marred by a lot of negativity and distrust. The lesson to take away here is that social media has given power back to consumers, as even the previous cases with Snapdeal and Amul proved and apologizing after a goof-up might not always be enough. If nothing else, social media has caused brands pull up their socks, while providing the odd excitement to satiate our voyeuristic appetite.

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