Media + PR + Analytics

3 Lessons from the Great Swimsuit Giveaway Campaign Snafu of 2017

Share This


Share This

On May 4, I couldn’t go onto Instagram without seeing a plethora of the same post: a red swimsuit-clad woman relaxing poolside, viewed through a dreamy filter in true Instagram fashion.

If you were lucky enough to have avoided the bombardment, I’ll clue you in before we dig into the “what can we learn from this” section: Last week, Sunny Co Clothing, a company started a few months back by University of Arizona students, aimed to gain some buzz by offering a promotion giveaway campaign through their Instagram account. Doesn’t sound like anything too crazy, right? Wait for it.

The company promised a free “Pamela” bathing suit (a style reminiscent of Baywatch’s iconic look that usually sells for $64.99) to every person who reposted the now infamous image and tagged the company in their post within 24 hours.

The only two “catches” mentioned in this original post were

  1. U.S. participants only and
  2. you were responsible for covering the shipping costs.

Other than that, it was pretty simple: If you posted, you received. Or so they promised.

Within hours, thousands of Instagrammers were posting the image in hopes of snagging the free suit – which led to a follow-up poston Sunny Co’s Instagram about 20 hours in, saying they reserved the right to cap the promotion “due to the viral volume of participants.”

The Arizona-based company also added there’d be delays in shipping and that no exchanges or returns would be allowed.

But that’s not all.

Some of the lucky posters who did receive the promo code for the free suit said the code itself wasn’t working, and upon check-out on the site, they were still charged full price.

Obviously, the line of communication between customers and customer service wasn’t the clearest, and those who did receive responses to their inquiries were simply assured that “everything will be sorted out.”

This was a promotion no-no. Let’s pull out three things we can learn from this giveaway campaign swimsuit snafu.

1. Prior planning is key

How does that adage go? “Prior planning prevents poor performance”? I think that might be a good quote for those over at Sunny Co to throw up on their bulletin board.

Their goal was good – they wanted to engage with potential customers through Instagram, a popular social media channel for their target demographic of millennials. The platform itself has become a hub for fashion news and information, with many designers and companies reaching audiences through the visual medium.

You can’t fault them for good intentions. What you can fault them for is not thinking this through. A key to any project – whether it be social promotion or a full-blown ad campaign – is organization. You have to have realistic ideas of what you can achieve and have a plan for the worst-case scenario.

Sunny Co tried to backtrack a bit with their second post of stipulations, but all of that should’ve been worked out before the launch. It could’ve been as simple as adding a “first 500 people to post” clause – you still get the buzz generated, but you set clear expectations of deliverables.

2. Talk is cheap

On the “About” section of Sunny Co’s company website, they state: “We want to be a company that listen’s [sic] to every single customers [sic] wants and needs.” That’s great! As a customer, you love hearing that your thoughts matter. But you can’t just SAY you listen to customers; you have to back that up. The fact that frustrated patrons couldn’t get through to people at Sunny Co, or that they weren’t delivered what they were promised, doesn’t bode well for the company’s mission.

Mistakes happen, but what’s almost more telling than a company’s mistake is how they deal with the mistake. Own up to your actions – no matter how they turned out. You need to back up your sentiments with tangible actions.

By the way, they also note that “if we can put a smile on every person that wears a Sunny Co Clothing product then and only then can we sleep easy.” There may be a few sleepless nights in the cards for the Sunny Co crew.

3. Happy customers = good. Angry customers = bad

You can argue that any press is good press, and in some instances, you’d be right. For Sunny Co, however, this bad press may have dug them into a grave. Many posters took to social media to slam Sunny Co for this whole giveaway campaign mess, commenting on the company’s posts and tweeting memes addressing the situation.

As of Friday, the company had deleted its Instagram account, only causing more of a stir. By essentially ghosting their customers, they’re amplifying their patrons’ frustrations and cutting off possibilities of return business. Sunny Co gained thousands of potential customers within a matter of hours but may have lost the majority of them due to poor management.

This case was obviously a mess, but that doesn’t mean social promotions aren’t a great way to create buzz for your brand. Learn from Sunny Co’s mistakes – make sure you have a plan in place, back up your talk with real action and value your customer’s happiness – and your next social campaign could be a viral success instead of a viral failure.


Get News + Insights Right Where You Want Them (Your Inbox)

Media + PR + Analytics

Social media, media relations, media planning and buying, data analysis, optimization … all part of a day’s work. We’ll figure out the places you need to be and make sure you’re making the most of every channel.

learn more


We've been growing brands for a long time. You could be next.

About LSB