16May 2022

Famous Reddit Marketing Fails

As a marketer, the odds are that you’ve explored a host of social media marketing options.

While the most popular money-making platforms include the likes of YouTube, Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, these are not the be-all and end-all of the game.

Importantly, no conversation would be complete without highlighting the impact of Reddit, the self-proclaimed “Front Page of the Internet”.

As an online forum, Reddit perfectly works as an aggregated, news, content, and conversation platform. It’s the perfect microcosm of all other social networks fused to create a mega forum where the conversation never dies.

Despite being the fifth most popular website in the United States, and the eighth-most popular website in the world, brands just seem not to understand how to market on Reddit.

This is largely because of the community on the platform. Generally, Redditors seem to be against blatant marketing efforts and would rather brands refine their campaigns to a more guerilla-style approach.

On paper, this sounds easy to do but in practice, as we will get to show in a bit, is quite hard to achieve. Here are some of the biggest Reddit marketing fails plus pointers on how the situations could have been avoided altogether.

Jerry Stritzke, CEO of REI

On Reddit, Ask Me Anything (AMA) posts are quite popular. In most instances, celebrities and captains of industry get to indulge with audiences and share insights about topics they’re knowledgeable about.


When Jerry Stritzke, REI’s CEO made public that REI would not be open on Black Friday, he expected adulation from Redditors for giving his employees the day off.

However, things took a turn for the worse when Redditors started making attacks on his company for actually doing the bare minimum with the day off.

On some fronts, allegations were made that his employees didn’t get a living wage, the employees’ hours were cut, and that the company graded employees based on how many memberships they were able to sell.

In a bid to insulate the firm, Stritzke took all the criticism in stride and made a point of responding to the allegations through internal company memos and also on Reddit.


While Stritzke’s initial goal was to win favor among Redditors for some of the company’s progressive policies, he was still hit with a myriad of allegations against all the negative at the workplace.

Credit to him though because while he was still a greenhorn at the time, he managed to wade through the waters by responding to criticisms leveled against the firm.

As an entrepreneur, it’s prudent that you take inspiration from how he was able to think on his feet. Impressively, long after the AMA session was over, he went the extra mile and launched a couple of internal initiatives to improve employee welfare.

Woody Harrelson

In Reddit folklore, no one has managed to register a bigger fail than Woody Harrelson. Following the release of his movie Rampart, Harrelson was eager to promote the movie on Reddit.


While this is perfectly okay, it was how he decided to do it that landed him in hot soup. Normally, AMA sessions tend to be open-ended and everything is open to discussion.

As such, when he tried to impose a condition that only questions about the film would be open to discussion, Redditors found him out of order.

They called him out for it and went ahead to inquire about his personal life. Remarkably, he tried to deflect such questions and he was labeled a diva who hires a PR team to answer questions that were meant for him.

To avoid spiraling further, his PR team tried to answer a few of the personal questions brought forward but the damage was done.


AMA sessions are all about randomness. While objectivity is important, the internet has never been known to be about linear conversations where one topic leads to another.

The randomness of platforms like Reddit is what enthralls audiences to engage in forum discussions.

If you’re looking to share insights about a product or service you’ve recently launched, then perhaps the best strategy to embrace is to keep mum on subjects you’re not willing to respond to.

This would be a safer option than trying to limit what questions can be posed to you.

Carlos Ghosn, CEO of Renault and Nissan

The tag “Front Page of the Internet” wouldn’t stick if there was no one policing activities on the platform.


Redditors have been known to be notoriously against inauthentic and poorly planned marketing schemes. However, this wasn’t public knowledge to the honchos at Nissan when they decided to plant a couple of questions during their CEO’s AMA session.

Investigative Redditors reviewed some accounts behind the ‘phony’ questions raised and realized that most of them were new accounts with zero histories of asking questions on the platform.

This lead to a storm of allegations leveled against Nissan for this retro approach that had no place in the brave new world where Redditors wield lots of power.

While it’s true that Nissan tried to argue their way out of the allegations, Redditors simply couldn’t have it and the barrage of accusations continued.


If left unchecked, Reddit can easily bring down the stock of a company. Before jumping on the platform, it would help if you were conversant with some of the unspoken rules and embraced a more authentic approach.

Simply speaking the lingo won’t cut it. You also need to be able to relate with Redditors on common ground without being brash about your marketing efforts.

CEO of Skiplagged

When rival airlines sued the famous travel company for “hidden city ticketing”, a maneuver which Skiplagged used to make lots of money, they were keen to get back in the good books of the public.


The CEO decided to hop onto Reddit to inquire about which charities they thought would best be served by the excess fees raised.

At first, it seemed like a brilliant move as a host of Redditors praised the move and went ahead to recommend some of their favorite charities.

The discussion then morphed into queries about how Skiplagged works, and the public response seemed to be on track right until the bashing started.

While it’s true Skiplagged was all about helping travelers save money, it was hard for a good number of Redditors to find fault with their system.

This was probably because people who travel in this fashion were more likely to be endangered as there were no safety precautions to ensure that their well-being was given priority. 

Sure, the CEO’s charitable sales pitch seemed like the right idea right until it imploded. The results were so catastrophic that the site went down some hours later in a move that has now been famously coined to be the “Reddit hug of death”.


As a business owner, you must take charge of the narrative. However, you should also be aware that you can’t control how the narrative goes since most of them tend to take on a life of their own.

There’s not much you can do if your pitch doesn’t match up with what your service offering is. As such, it’s best to first try to have an immaculate service before posting to fellow Redditors. 

Google Site Reliability Team

Your favorite search engine has been so ahead of the times that it would seem that they are untouchable on the social media front.


However, this was not the case when Google decided to host an AMA session about the reliability of their brand. What made the whole discussion worrisome for the folks at Google was the fact that Gmail services went down during the AMA session.


As a brand, you want to plan and have in place systems to effectively respond to a crisis when it does happen. However, there are occasions where things are going to be out of your control.

In this instance, Google was critiqued for crimes they could anticipate but didn’t foresee happening in the immediate future.

If you’re planning to play the social media game, you need to be ready to respond in real-time to issues raised and maintain a positive outlook about your company’s prospects.

Applebee’s Tip Fiasco

One of Applebee’s customers was infuriated that the company charged him an automatic 18% gratuity for hosting a large party. So displeased was he that he decided to write “I give God 10%. Why do you get 18?”


A waitress at the establishment decided to upload the receipt on Reddit which lead to their firing. This dismissal story together with the gratuity incident caused a big stir up on social media.

To defend themselves, Applebee’s took to Facebook to defend itself.

As part of their reasoning, they had to let the employee go because their social media policy was rooted in openness and accessibility. As such, they tried to respond to as many of the queries as possible.

While this usually works great in most instances, this was an epic fail on their part because most people took offense to the tone used.

Things got so bad that the company resorted to copying and pasting the company’s policy since they were unable to keep up with the more than 20,000 comments.

Eventually, they decided to hide the original post and in place shared a status about their social media policy.

This left a bad taste in the mouths of many who perceived the move to be censorship.


You don’t have to respond to every negative social media post. If you do decide to walk this path, then it’s best to be compassionate and thoughtful about what could have inspired the post in the first place.

If things get worse, then, the worst thing you can do is try to delete comments and censor critics.

Social selling can be a hard road to take. As such, you want to be cautious about your interactions with clients.

Acodez is a leading digital marketing agency in India. Our services includes SEO, SMM, SMO, PPC, and content marketing services to ensure that your website’s rank among the top results on the search engine. We are also a leading player in the website design company India arena, offering all kinds of web design and web development services at affordable prices. For further information, please contact us today.

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Vipin Nayar

Vipin Nayar

Vipin Nayar is the Digital Marketing Head at Acodez. As a Social Media, SEO & SEM expert with over 8 years' experience in online marketing, he uses his keen insight into customer behaviour to formulate innovative strategies that helps clients enhance their online presence & open up new business avenues.

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