5 Huge Instagram Fails for Brands & Influencers

Peter Davis

Peter Davis is the Founder and CEO of the project, which is a community of brands working together to help each other grow, built on top of a fast and easy email campaign builder. Pete previously built and ran a successful social and digital media agency that he sold to Private Equity in late 2016.

A key reason that Instagram is so accessible is that it sits right there in your pocket. You can share the highlights of your day just by pulling out your phone and pointing it at something worthy.

You can go LIVE to your entire Instagram audience within three seconds and post content from your camera roll in three clicks.

It means that content should be raw and have an edge to it, it’s not the same as Facebook posts which need a lot more craft. Filters make anything look good anyway.

Stories have made this more true, where you can point your camera at yourself and talk, and we all know friends and brands who regularly share 20+ stories every day.

The reality can be a little different. How many photos did your team take to get that perfect snap of your newest release? 30? 50?

…and how long did you spend getting dressed up and made up, just to go onto Instagram stories and share some news?

Where Instagram started still bares some truth today though. For brands and influencers sharing content is easy. Typing out captions is quick ‘enough’ and you can start getting eye balls onto your latest and greatest within minutes.

Sometimes though, handing control of an Instagram page to someone who can post from their phone can be dangerous. Not ‘OMG I just pasted our hashtags in twice’ kind of dangerous and not ‘why can’t I get any damn service, I need to post! Kind of dangerous.

We’re talking screw ups that have the potential to do some lasting damage. That kind of dangerous.

For every Instagram pic that blows up and drives an explosion in followers or sales, there are countless fails and mistakes that have done irreparable damage.  In this list we will look at 5 times when brands and influencers have failed so hard on Instagram that it gives us the sweats just thinking about it!

1. Dominos’ Pizza Russian Free Pizza Tattoo U-turn

If those seven words don’t get you excited then you must have read this story before!

You might be able to piece the story together yourself, but let us save you the guesswork and show you that this fail is as predictably brilliant as you could imagine.

In late 2018 the Russian Branch of Domino’s Pizza promised free pizza to anyone who got a tattoo of their logo. Not one free pizza. 100 pizzas for the next 100 years.

But, they underestimated Russia’s love of pizza.

Domino’s launched the supposedly 2-month promotion on August 31 and quickly moved to clarify that the tattoo had to be at least 2 cm’s and on ‘visible parts of the body, ruling out any placements between neck and knee’ which came as very bad news for the person who got a chest tattoo.

On September 10 they pulled the pin on the promotion entirely.

‘Friends, we already have 350 participants! We are not receiving any new tattoos! If you are at a tattoo artist’s and getting tattoos, we will include you in the list of participants. But we are waiting for pictures before 12:00 today.

‘For those [getting tattoos] later, we recommend canceling the appointment, because unfortunately, we will not be able to include you.’

Domino’s did the right thing and honored the promotion for those submitted pictures on time, but our research shows lots of shared tattoo pictures from after September 10 and likely lots of disappointed pizza fans.

5 Huge Instagram Fails for Brands & Influencers


Don’t underestimate what people will do for something free. Check yourself by saying ‘what’s are the extreme scenarios that could happen here’ and draw the rules early. Capping this promotion to the first 100 or 250 people could have saved a lot of headaches and potentially brought even more fun and urgency to the promotion.

2. Scott Disick knows how to cut and paste

Do you ever get the impression that some celebrities and influencers aren’t 100% genuine about the products they post?

Now we can’t be certain that Scott Disick doesn’t love @booteauk protein shakes, but we do know that he relies on others to help him express his love for the drink.

Scott’s Instagram caption on a post of him posing with a (credibly half-empty) jar of Boo Tea Shake was as follows

“Here you go, at 4pm est, write the below.”


Keeping up with the summer workout routine with my morning @booteauk protein shake!”

According to Jezebel, Scott makes $15,000–$20,000 for sponsored posts like this. Nice money if you can swing it!

Scott, like some of the other Kardashians, deletes sponsored Instagram posts after a while which is a typical practice for larger influencer accounts. This time, the post only stayed up a few minutes, getting to just 4,291 likes before Scott, or someone else, hastily pulled it down.

We wonder if he still got paid?!

Unsurprisingly, Scott isn’t the first person to suffer from a careless copy-and-paste error – in 2016 a Premier League footballer suffered embarrassment when he tweeted out a supporting message after his teammates lost a game that he missed through injury.

“Can you tweet something like

Unbelievable support yesterday and great effort by the lads! Hard result to take! But we go again”

We also love how his ghost writer seems to have lost his period key and resorts to using the exclamation point instead! Pure! Gold! Ok, we can stop now! Oh there it is.

5 Huge Instagram Fails for Brands & Influencers


If you’re working with an influencer, keep a keen eye on the content that they’re sharing when they share it. Ensure you pick up any mistakes before any members of the public, and be ready to be in touch with someone who can fix something last minute.

3. Be careful who you get into bed with

Champion boxer Floyd Mayweather and music producer DJ Khaled both have enormous social media followings with combined Facebook, Twitter and Instagram audiences of 24 million and 12 million respectively.

Back in September 2017, both celebs got well into the often murky world of cryptocurrencies and teamed up with some new business partners who were about to hit some legal trouble.

Cryptocurrencies often increase in popularity when more and more people buy into a coin’s initial coin offering so it was a no brainer to target ‘Money’ Mayweather and Khaled’s audiences for some collaborative marketing.

A since-deleted Facebook post from Mayweather stated: “As usual I’m going to win big with this one!”

DJ Khaled described the project as a “game changer” in a since-deleted post to his 12 million Instagram followers.

The ICO went well and raised more than $25 million before two of the coin’s founders were arrested over charges relating to securities and wire fraud (a class action lawsuit was eventually brought against them).

The value of the coin is now hovering around $1 million, meaning investors lost over 95% of their money.

5 Huge Instagram Fails for Brands & Influencers


Unfortunately, Mayweather and Khaled’s carelessness and lack of due diligence cost their fans a lot of money. While not every endorsement is going to be a homerun, it’s important for brands and influencers to partner with people who share similar values and are trustworthy.  Even more important is to make sure you understand a product or service before you endorse it.

4. That’s a great hashtag for our new campaign, no need to check.

British bread company Warburtons is loved in Northern England and is especially famous for their delicious crumpets. Back in 2017, they had a great idea to boost sales and asked their followers to share their best crumpet pictures.

To track the campaign, Warburtons asked their fans to share using #crumpetcreations as the hashtag – so far so good, right?

The fail came when someone actually checked the hashtag and realized that it had already been claimed by a company specializing in furry costume creations.

5 Huge Instagram Fails for Brands & Influencers

The end result was Warburtons’ fans being introduced to a world they likely never knew existed and a campaign that was over as quickly as it began.


Do your research! Want to use a certain name for a dress or a campaign? Just search for it. Check Google, check hashtags, check other accounts – it’ll save a whole lot of pain and embarrassment.

5. Just set the whole thing on Fyre

Fyre Festival is a story that’s so absurd that it has its own Netflix special.

It had private islands, unpaid locals, enthusiastic entrepreneurs, glamping, Jah Rule, and so many broken promises.

While the aftermath of Fyre is old news by now, it’s important to remember that the festival was launched, marketed, and promoted by social media and especially Instagram.  Had the festival worked out, this would have been a killer case study to explore how to leverage influencers en-masse to get exposure and traction.

But the organizers came up far short – there were no bungalows on the beach, the food was basic at best (remember the infamous sandwich pic?), and most of the main acts backed out due to how unprepared the site was.

In a swift example of poetic justice, many of the influencers who helped promote the festival also helped bring about its demise in real time.  Live videos, hashtags, and photos of the site flooded the internet and eventually resulted in jail time for the organizer.


The age old saying of “don’t bite the hand that feeds you” applies here – influencers can make or break a campaign and it’s up to brands to deliver on what they promise or suffer their wrath.  Fyre experienced this on a massive scale but the lesson holds true for brands of any size – don’t overpromise or anger the people trying to help you because the blade always cuts 2 ways.

Have you seen any other fails that should have made the list? Drop them in the comments.

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