Coca-Cola Learns a Lesson About Automated Marketing after Being Tricked into Quoting Hitler

Brands, especially major ones, shouldn’t leave their marketing campaigns to bots

Photo Sasabune Omakase Modified: Flickr/erin/CC 4.0

Never leave your social media engagement to a robot. 

Coca-Cola has suspended its automated Twitter campaign, #MakeItHappy, after a prank designed by the team at Gawker caused the brand to send out lines from Mein Kampf, the autobiography of Adolf Hitler.

Originally introduced during Super Bowl Sunday, Coke’s #MakeItHappy campaign encouraged followers to retweet or reply to negative tweets with the hashtag #MakeItHappy. 

Coke’s automated algorithm would then turn those words into images made of ASCII lettering code.

"We turned the hate you found into something happy," @CocaCola promised.

Then Gawker noticed that there didn’t seem to be anyone monitoring those tweets very closely, as the automated system had someone turned a slogan for white nationalists into a cutesy image of dog. To prove it, Gawker built a Twitter bot, @MeinCoke, to tweet lines of text directly from Mein Kampf to Coca-Cola, tagged with #MakeItHappy.

@MeinCoke We turned the hate you found into something happy. RT to make people :) http://t.co/rCaGZrEzRU pic.twitter.com/B0E5M3bCfW

— Coca-Cola (@CocaCola) February 2, 2015

@MeinCoke We turned the hate you found into something happy. RT to make people :) http://t.co/hKB97rQzOy pic.twitter.com/rkKKKSgTdl

— Coca-Cola (@CocaCola) February 2, 2015

Sure enough, the automated campaign picked it up, and was soon turning Hitler’s words into artwork. According to Adweek, Coca-Cola finally suspended the campaign on Wednesday, February 4, presumably having learned its lesson about leaving your social media outreach to a bot. 

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