It only took one tweet to rehash 20-year old sexual assault allegations.

For awhile things seemed to be looking up for Bill Cosby: he was back in the public eye with a book about his life, his comedy tour was proving to be a success and NBC announced plans for a new sitcom starring the comedian.

With this resurgence in popularity, Cosby’s marketing team decided to take his fandom into the 21st century. Through a harmless ploy, they invited followers on Twitter to create memes using photos of Cosby. They even linked to a meme maker on his website.

The publicity stunt immediately backfired.

Instead of creating memes based on witty one-liners from Cliff Huxtable or Cosby’s love of JELL-O Pudding, Twitter users instead began to create memes attacking Cosby about the rape allegations he faced twenty years earlier.

Attention was originally brought to these allegations a month prior when a video was posted online of Comedian Hannibal Buress attacking Cosby’s view that the black community needed to clean up it’s image. He called Cosby smug, saying it was hard to take advice from someone who is a rapist.

While it was just a small piece in Buress’ performance, it stuck in people’s heads and the meme generator proved to be the perfect platform to bring up the accusations again.

So instead of memes like this:

Ones like this popped up:

And this one:

Oh, and this one too:

And a bunch more. Just search for CosbyMeme on Tumblr and you’ll find a long list of them.

His marketing team tried to censor words like “rape”, “rapist” and “sex” from showing up on the memes, but users still found a way around it:

Shortly thereafter the meme generator was taken down, but the damage was done. So far 24 women have publicly come forward accusing Bill Cosby of sexually assaulting them.  As a result, his sitcom has been nixed, Cosby Show reruns have been pulled from air, countless television and comedy appearances have been canceled, and Cosby’s wholesome, squeaky-clean image has been destroyed.

His Twitter account has been fairly quiet ever since.

Cosby may have arguably the worst Twitter marketing blunder so far, but he is not the first to do so. Here’s a list of a few other Twitter PR fails:


Poor Mets. All they wanted was a little love.

In September, The New York Mets asked Twitter followers to tell them how they became fans of the team using #ImAMetsFanBecause. Those who tweeted would be entered to win free tickets to a game. It soon became a trending topic – but not for the initial reason the Mets had hoped for. Twitter users began to use the hashtag as a way to not only insult the team, but its fans as well. While some of the responses were rather hilarious, it was definitely not the marketing the baseball team was hoping for.


Policemen don’t have the best reputation. When NYPD tried to encourage their Twitter followers to post pictures of them with their friendly local law enforcement officers, they were hoping to turn around this poor image. Instead Twitter users took the opportunity to use #MyNYPD to highlight the brutality seen at the hands of the department.


ALWAYS check trending hashtags before using them for your marketing. DiGiorno learned this a little too late.

The frozen pizza company tried using #WhyIStayed as a funny gimmick to sell their product. Except they did not check why the hashtag was trending to begin with. Around the time DiGiorno made the post, Janay Rice was receiving a lot of criticism for staying with her then-fiancee and now husband, former Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice. Ray was caught on tape in February of 2014 getting into a heated argument with Janay and then punching her out cold in a casino elevator. The #WhyIStayed was intended for women to share their stories of domestic violence and why it is not always so easy to leave.

DiGiorno realized their mistake shortly after making the post and removed it from their Twitter account, instead posting many apologies in its place.


Before DiGiono made the fatal error of not checking a trending hashtag, Entenmann’s suffered a similar humiliation.

In 2011, the Twitter world was in uproar over Casey Anthony’s “Not Guilty” verdict for the death of her two-year-old daughter Caylee. As a result, #NotGuilty was a top hashtag trending on the site. Seeing its popularity, Entenmann’s decided to use #NotGuilty to increase their own fan base. Except instead of getting a chuckle or two, Entenmann’s received a lot of angry tweets about their poor taste. The company deleted the post and apologized for the tweet, stating that they had not checked the meaning behind the hashtag before posting.

Celeb Boutique

When it comes to insensitivity, Celeb Boutique may have taken the cake.

When the U.K. retailer saw #Aurora trending, they used it as an opportunity to advertise a Kim Kardashian-inspired dress, completely unaware of the events unfolding overseas in Colorado. Twelve people were killed and 50 people were wounded when a masked man entered a theater and opened fire on the audience. It was definitely not the best time to be cracking a #Aurora joke on Twitter. After getting a lot of hate from followers, they took down the post and apologized.

Kenneth Cole

Kenneth Cole is probably the worst offender with not just one, but THREE insensitive tweets.

Their first Twitter blunder took place in 2011 when the CEO took the trending #Cairo and joked that the “uproar” was over the company’s new spring collection. In reality, the Egyptians were protesting a 30-year reign of President Hosini Mubarak and the corruption under his government. Hundreds of people died in the Cairo protests.

Cole’s next disastrous Tweet took place in April of 2013 after a gun control bill that would increase background checks was rejected by the Senate. He posted the following:

and then followed it five hours later with: “Retail seems to be slowing. The #StockMarket was down again, but I hear the Gun industry is still making a killing. #Bradybuzz”.

 Cole’s third tweet happened later in 2013 when he used the phrase “Boots on the ground” to try and sell footwear. This was made after Obama used the phrase in a speech to explain his reasoning for not sending American troops over to Syria, where they are in the midst of a civil war. Out of the three tweets, Cole only apologized for the #Cairo incident, and claims that he uses these controversial tweets as a way to open up dialogue on important issues.
So from memes to footwear, let this be a lesson to everyone: be careful what you tweet!

Have you ever Tweeted something that received a lot of backlash and you instantly regretted it? Or know of any other marketing gaffes? Share with us in the comments section!