Small Business How-Tos

How Brands are Doing Hashtag Marketing?

Picture of Pankaj Narang

by Pankaj Narang

Is there any real value in attaching a hashtag to your ‘Social’ posts?

Rarely will you find a photo, video, response, survey, quiz and even opinion on major social platforms without a relevant hashtag. As brands continue to understand and leverage this hashtag thing, it’s fair to ask the questions.

How Brands are Doing Hashtag Marketing

    • #Do Hashtags really matter?
    • #Do they deliver any value to your brand?
    • #Do Hashtags do anything at all?

Why Brands Run Hashtag Campaigns?

1. Define Content

Hashtags originated as an effective way to categorize topics of interesting conversation online so that social media users could easily track down posts related to a group or particular event.

When you upload social media content, you can use a relevant hashtag to further describe the true purpose of your post and show a relevant value proposition to your audience.

Define content

For example, Makeup Forever – a popular beauty brand labels its Instagram posts like #MakeupForever and uses supporting Hashtags such as #contouring #ProBronzeFusion to make it easier for customers to find its photos and tagged products.

2. Extend the Reach of Social Posts

Remember that it is important for a brand to integrate their offline marketing campaign with their social media activity. The customized label idea was so interesting that everyone wanted to give it a try and share the results on social media. Because influencer marketing is also becoming popular these days, this share a coke campaign featured Ryan Seacrest to take the campaign to the next level.

3. #IceBucketChallenge – ALS Association

Even though the ALS Association didn’t start the hashtag, the campaign was able to raise awareness about ALS and tons of money for the Association as well. This campaign is a great example of how non-profit businesses can create a fun and exciting campaign to raise funds and awareness. Celebrities got on the #IceBucketChallenge and tagged their friends to help the campaign go viral and get the kind of results it did.

It is impossible to deny that the ALS bucket challenge was one of the most successful ‘non commercial’ viral campaign we have seen in a while. Within the first few weeks, a bucket with ice water became instant advertisement for the ALS Association. If a celebrity was dumping ice cold water over them in a video, it was understood that they are creating awareness for ALS and this is exactly the kind of connection every brand needs to make.


Before the challenge became viral, not many people knew about ALS. All of a sudden, ALS was everywhere – on Facebook, Twitter, local events and YouTube. What brands need to understand is that success of any product comes down to a very basic marketing principle – awareness. If people don’t know your product exists or what’s so special about it, it is going to be difficult for them to make a purchase decision.

If your goal is to increase product sales, you need to strike the right emotional chord. The ALS campaign elicited positivity and amusement. Watching your favorite celebrity dumping a bucket of ice water was fun and this is the right kind of emotion you want to target. If ALS campaign created videos that show what ALS sufferers go through, it would only lead to a depressing effect and that’s the wrong kind of emotion.

4. #TweetFromTheSeat – Charmin Toilet Paper

The best thing to make your marketing campaign go viral is to push the right buttons. Interestingly Charmin toilet paper pushed the ‘unusual’ button and doing something unusual is the same as doing something unique.

#TweetFromTheSeat – this hashtag took a unique turn as people were encouraged to tweet whenever they were sitting on the toilet. Even though it sounds surprising, people don’t stop using social media even when they are in the bathroom.

The campaign has every element that would make it a success. It was unusual, it was hilarious and it was remarkable. No other brand asked people to tweet while sitting in the bathroom and this is what encouraged the users to start talking about the campaign on Twitter.

Talking campaign about on Twitter

This marketing hashtag is a classic example that you don’t always need a glamorous product to become popular. Toilet papers are so mundane that it is hard to create compelling content but Charmin broke out of the boring niche. Since the launch of the campaign, the brand has been increasing its Twitter following steadily.

5. #WantAnR8 - Audi

Joanne McCoy in her tweet to Audi of America stated how bad she wanted the Audi R8 V10 with the hashtag #WantAnR8. The brand took notice of the tweet and delivered the smoking hot car to her driveway for a day.

Later the hashtag #WantAnR8 turned into a full-fledged twitter contest and hundreds of participants started tweeting to win a chance to get behind the Audi wheels for just one day. Surprisingly, the hashtag originated in 2011 and has been tweeted more than 75,000 times since the launch of the campaign.

Launch of the campaign

All Twitter users had to do was create a tweet using the hashtag. They would then enter the contest to Win Audi R8 for one day.

6. #OREODunkSweepstakes – Oreo

You would hardly find a person who doesn’t love to dunk an Oreo cookie in a glass of cold milk. And this is exactly what Oreo asked people to do – dunk! Users who share their Oreo dunk on Instagram with the hashtag get a chance to win an exciting VIP dunking experience in LA or New York.

The biggest factor that helped this marketing campaign succeed is the fact that the biggest celebrities participated in the dunk. Three high profile celebrities were shown dunking their Oreo in a glass of milk including Christina Aguilera, Brazilian football star Neymar Jr. and Shaquille O’Neal.

Marketing campaign

Why does having celebrities in a campaign make a difference? Well, celebs have a customer base that helps to amplify the message. This simply means that the brands can spread their message even further and make their campaigns even more popular. It is also important to note that hilarious and fun campaigns have increased chances of going viral.

7. #NationalFriedChickenDay - KFC

Sometimes a random trending hashtag works perfectly for brand. Once when #NationalFriedChickenDay was trending, KFC, a popular fast food chain decided to take complete advantage of it.

Surprisingly, the hashtag had nothing to do with the brand nor did KFC start it. In fact, they saw the hashtag trending on Twitter and decided to jump in. Remember that jumping into a relevant trending topic is a great way to boost brand awareness and customer engagement.

Jump into relevant trending

KFC offered a promotion and used the hashtag to connect with an audience who loves food and couldn’t think about anything else but fried chicken. The campaign was short lived but it was an instant hit. More importantly, it was a win-win for both the brand as well as the customers.

Top Four Brand Hashtag Marketing Failures

8. #McDStories by McDonald’s

While coming up with the hashtag #McDStories, the brand thought of getting a positive response from its audience. McDonald’s wanted to promote their brand while encouraging its customers to re-live the good memories associated with the brand. Sadly, it became a terrible nightmare for the brand managers.

McDonald’s wanted to promote their brand

Instead of promoting the brand, Twitter users started sharing negative feedback. From the degraded food quality to the lack of sanitation, plenty of issues were highlighted even by several activists and influencers. Even though the brand deleted the tweet and changed their hashtag to #meetthefarmers – it was too late as the damage was already done.

Users started sharing negative feddback

9. #WTFF by Burger King

Burger King introduced new lower fat French fries and decided to promote it on social media. However, they ran into a serious problem with the hashtag #WTFF - What the French Fry. Well, little did the brand know that WTFF was already in use for something very different – it was used for What the F*****g F**k.

There was an amusing confusion on Twitter. Many of the hashtag tweets were by Burger King and were related to the new fries. Others were tweets about random things that turn people off such as these.

Amusing confusion on Twitter

To prevent such awkward mishaps, it is important that brands do a bit of Internet research before starting a tag.

10. #susanalbumparty – Susan Boyle

Susan Boyle hosted an album party and her producers decided to promote the event using #susanalbumparty. This hashtag unfortunately read very differently than an album release party. Though the producers deleted the tweet quickly, it became a trending topic on Twitter.

Hashtags read very differently

11. #ILoveWalgreens – Walgreens

This hashtag was the first time people seemed confused. What’s amazing is that Twitter users took time to tweet their real sentiments and poke fun at the hashtag. Walgreens received backlash mainly because of the way it executed the trend.

Confusing hashtag


These are some branded hashtag campaigns, you can easily learn from. Go ahead and start running your hashtag campaign. If you have any questions, feel free to drop them in the comment below.

Picture of Pankaj Narang

Pankaj Narang

A social media marketing enthusiast, Pankaj is determined to shape his ideas into perfect products. CoFounder of Socialert - Social Analytics Tool, he believes in coming up with engaging tools to redefine face of digital marketing. Follow his blog socialalert.

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