What Hashtags That Don’t #Fail Have In Common

#Justdoit. #HumpDay. #ThrowbackThursday. There’s something about a great hashtag that makes it take off — and brands these days put a lot of effort into figuring out what that thing is. But too often, they #fail. Lately, brands have rightfully taken a lot of heat for trying to hijack trending tags or coming up with lame ones of their own. Aside from avoiding #shaming in Digiday, creating the right tags for branded content or an ad campaign can boost sharing significantly.

To promote the launch of Nissan’s new taxicabs in New YorkCity, TBWA New York created a multi-channel campaign highlighting the cab’s features and the fact that it was custom-built for NYC. On December 10, the agency released geo-targeted banner ads, organic and promoted posts on Twitter and Facebook, and YouTube videos, all using the hashtag #HailYes. The campaign has garnered 433 uses on Twitter and still has activity, according to Tweet Binder. That’s not a viral hit, but in the branded hashtag arena, it constitutes a success.

Hashtags help focus social media energy and give consumers an easy way to communicate. “Social media is fragmented and disconnected, and so are conversations within them,” said Lux Narayan, CEO of Unmetric, a provider of social media analytics. “Hashtags create a magnet around which a brand can condense conversation, and the presence of the hashtag establishes the linkage back to the brand or content.”


A good branding hashtag is like a good pet name: It should be easy and fun to say; it should evoke emotion; and it should clearly relate to something about the brand or product. A great hashtag has the potential to become part of people’s daily updates. Nike+ followers love to use#justdoit and #makeitcount because they are aspirational, catchy slogans that easily apply to many aspects of their lives.

“These hashtags are relevant to a wide variety of followers’ physical activities, and put the focus on followers instead of product,” said Narayan.

Rob Schwartz, global creative president of TBWA, says his agency doesn’t test potential hashtags; it’s more a question of what feels right to the team.

“When everybody saw #HailYes, they just smiled,”he explained. “A hashtag needs to be clear, like a good headline, and it should make you think of something that’s emotional and make you want to do something with it. Say it out loud, have fun with it.”

Another example of viral success was Burger King’s #Satisfried, a hashtag that promoted its lower-calorie Satisfries French fries. Perhaps hedging its bets, Burger King also used and promoted #FriesKing and #Satisfries. They were the fast feeder’s most successful hashtags in 2013, with #FriesKing being tweeted by consumers 9,264 time; #Satisfried, 4928 times; and#Satisfries, 4,689 times.

Narayan says Burger King’s #Satisfried was so successful for a couple of reasons. First, it emphasizes Burger King’s marketing message that its foods are now healthier, with less fat and calories, but still satisfying. Second, trying to parse the almost-familiar word makes the brain work harder and is therefore more memorable.

He notes that brands should tweet a variety of message using a new hashtag and amplify it through promoted tweets and promoted trends.


TBWA kept the chatter going several days after launch of the campaign by tweeting , “Do you want a taxi with more room than your first apartment? RT #hailyes” — a question that resonated with New Yorkers and garnered plenty of retweets and replies.

Burger King also kept their hashtags in the conversation, tweeting #FriesKing 10 times, #Satisfries 32 times, and #Satisfried, 180 times — which seems to indicate that they were testing the success of the hashtags along the way, with #Satisfried emerging as the winner.

Creating the hashtag for a campaign should be done early and in coordination with the other elements of a campaign, advised RebeccaDavis, an executive vice president and group head at creative agency Ogilvy. “Don’t think of it as the last thing you tag on at the end. Naming is such an important and often neglected part of the work we do,” she said.

Trying to come up with a brand hashtag can also act as a test of the strength of the entire campaign, Davis added. If your team is stumped, it could mean that they’re not “creating language within these campaigns that feels relevant and new.”

Finally, be careful what you wish for. Not every hashtag goes viral in a good way. Just ask JP Morgan & Chase. In November, it launched #AskJPM, a Twitter campaign that aimed to give college students an opportunity to ask questions of a banker. It spread quickly, garnering more than 6,000 responses in six hours. But most tweets snarked at the bank, which faces several criminal investigations. (Including some great ones by media folk.) Soon after, JP Morgan deleted all its own #AskJPM tweets, but the tag lives on.


Before they go live with a hashtag, brands should do some contingency planning, Davis said, and try to imagine all the ways people could hash it up. “There’s some risk. You want to make sure you’re not teeing up profanity or something bad for your brand.”

But marketers shouldn’t be ashamed of their #fails, explained Narayan. “Marketers need to embrace that they will have far more failures and also-rans than successes. For every #Satisfried, there are probably 100 others we never heard of.”

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