17th March 2023 | Ben

Marketing strategy

A #Hashtag does not a marketing strategy make

Hands show gesture symbol hashtag is viral, web, social media, network

I set out to write this as a full blog post but I increasingly think that the title says it all. However, that wouldn’t make for exciting reading or do much for SEO, so to elaborate, here’s why this is the latest stone in my shoe.

Twice in recent months, I have been subjected to organisations stacking all their worth, strategy and effort behind a hashtag. Not a well thought out hashtag or anything that is reflective of their actual business, just a hashtag. The view of the brains that have come up with these is that everyone will unite behind a handful of words because that’s what cool, hip companies do. And they’re right – cool hip companies can get away with this, but the two organisations I have in mind are neither cool nor hip and therefore these become some tossy attempt to ingratiate themselves with millennials which actually ends up being an #ultimatefail – see what I did there?

One of the examples was dreamed up by the Board and the executive team.  Fine, nice idea for a campaign. But no, these guys have made it the title of their business strategy, so it will exist for at least three years… that’s 1,095 days too long for me. The funniest part is it couldn’t be further from how the organisation actually conducts itself or is perceived by its troops. It’s meant to create a feeling of unity, of family (Spoken like Babs Windsor as Peggy) – but this family is so screwed up it would bring an entirely new dimension to the term dysfunctional. I am yet to meet one other person that actually believes in this. People at all levels of the organisation use it, at every chance, but in a total P-taking fashion. So maybe it has succeeded in uniting the organisation – only not in the way it was intended.

The other example – and there’s no polite way to say this – sounds like something from a dodgy 80s mucky movie. Every time I hear it I have a picture in my mind, not a nice picture you’ll understand, but a picture all the same. I get what this organisation was trying to achieve with its hashtag – and thankfully this is a short term rallying cry rather than seeking to guide the business in the long term – but simply typing it into Google may have dissuaded them from using it or encouraged them to find an alternative form of words.

This one in particular reminded me of Susan Boyle – not the 80s movie aspect I hasten to add – but the supposed #ultimatefail that was the launch of her album through the use of a hashtag. In case you missed it, it was reported that some bright spark at the record label came up with #susanalbumparty (Susan Album Party). But the eagle eyed amongst you may realise that when dissected slightly differently it says something altogether more risqué. Now, I don’t know if this one was urban legend or actually happened – it has become a thing in and of itself now – but I cannot stop myself from thinking about it every time I interact with the clarion call being used by this particular business.

Such is my level of annoyance with #hashtags I’ve had to update the final slide of my marketing presentation. This used to finish on an FAQ slide, the top question being ‘When is it OK to use Comic Sans font?’  (the answer obviously being NEVER). It now ends on this parting recommendation – I’ve copied it as I present it:



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