Hashtags Be Cool

May 9, 2006

Whether or not you like it, hashtags are here for the long run. They’ve taken the leap from niche digital trend to become a staple of popular culture. We’re hashtagging our TV, events, news reports, adverts, competitions…I could go on.

In terms of marketing there are a few key tactics to bear in mind when using hashtags. No one likes the awkwardness of a #dadtag or a hashtag #fail, so here we’ll look at a few select hashtag success and fail stories to elevate your brand to a breaking-of-the-Internet level (We’re no Kim K, but we think we’re pretty close). But let’s take it back before going forward, ya feel?


The hashtag’s humble online beginnings date way back to 1988 on online relay chat MIRC (Microsoft Inter-Relay Chat). The hashtag was used to clump things in the messy chat together into groups.

It wasn’t until 2007 when now-Uber developer and supposed hashtag inventor (and all-round millennial Renaissance man-type) Chris Messina suggested the idea to Twitter via a tweet.

Chris was soon shut down by the social media giants and it was rarely mentioned again until the San Diego fires in 2007 where it was used en masse to report new developments on the fires using the hashtag #SanDiegoFire. Smart, hey?

It wasn’t until 2009 that Twitter formally adopted the hashtag and began automatically hyperlinking whatever you decided to flick out to the twittersphere appended with the # sign. In 2010, trending topics became a worldwide phenomenon when Twitter started highlighting the most popular hashtags and thus a new dawn of social media (and marketing) began….

Hashtags have grown to a point where we use the different variations for our own benefit and to compliment the rest of our content marketing.


Trending hashtags are the most popular words or phrases used at any given time, mostly due to Twitter’s Discover and Trending Topics features. Some of the most popular from last year include #RefugeesWelcome, #BlackLivesMatter and #FIFAWWC.

Hashtags don’t just have to serve a literal purpose to be popular though – just look at the recent viral trend #DamnDaniel. Brands do well to hop on these limited-yet-extensive bandwagons, probably thinking: we’re down with the kids, we’re up to date, we’re still relevant! And mostly this is true – it shows you enjoy the same things and can build relationships based on connecting through mutual interests of pointless videos and catch phrases.

Axe's DAMN DANIEL advertising tie-in tweet

Avoid using trends relating to a sensitive subject matter though, or be prepared to handle the backlash. Woolworths thought it would be a good idea to use the hashtag #FreshInOurMinds and get users to send in old war photos just before ANZAC day to promote their fresh food campaign. Of course this was met with heaps of backlash and who can blame the public for being a little angered?

Woolworths ANZAC Fresh In Our Memories Tweet


Since the dawn of the hashtag, brands have been trying to find the special recipe to create user generated content whilst minimising both effort and budget. Only a few have cracked it, and OH MAN has their been many hashtag #fails. The ever controversial Qantas tops the list with their #QantasLuxury campaign, asking users to tweet them their dream flight experience in order to win a competition. Within minutes a damning backlash flew out with thousands of tweets mocking the airlines shortcomings especially the grounding of a fleet of planes. Lesson learnt here is to make sure you know what you’re getting into with these campaigns!

#qantasluxury hashtag campaign fail tweets

The brand hashtag is something that’s memorable and easily repeated all whilst being consistent with brand image. You’re providing a base to seek those oh so fulfilling retweets all whilst boosting your brand awareness. Red Bull are one of the all time winners of the brand hashtag with your average tweet and celebs alike donning the #GivesYouWings tag. You know you’re winning when people use your hashtag without a company logo in sight.

RedBull #givesyouwing hashtag tweet example


Easy to do but very hard to do well, the campaign hashtag can be a complete hit or miss. Your campaign tag should reflect the message you’re putting across with the campaign as a whole. It should back the campaign up like a good wingman – it’s not in your face stealing the show but it’s always there to keep the ball rolling if you’re not quite understood.

Take our favourite sugary beverage Coca Cola and their ‘Share A Coke’ campaign which saw sales grow for the first time in 10 years. The basis behind the campaign was to create a personable experience that people could share with each other, whether that’s behind a screen or up in your grill everyone was excited to have a bottle of Coke with their name on it. The hashtag #ShareACoke wasn’t the focal point of the campaign but was there to usher it into internet stardom and one of the most successful campaigns in recent years through it’s platform for user generated content and share-ability. Be a good wingman; don’t steal the show.

#shareacoke with a workmate hashtag example Coca-Cola


Probably the least used but most effective. Beat everyone to it: don’t try and start trending, START THE TREND. This takes an active and on-the-ball team that regularly keep up to date with current events, which basically means having no life BUT your clients will love you (we don’t endorse employees having no life – hire more people)! You’ll also need a designer that can whip up some imagery magic quicker than you can type 120 characters. If you manage all of this you will have struck gold by starting online, viral conversations. Your brand will be at the heart of a viral phenomenon that is building relationships and new conversations at an inconceivable rate.

Oreo won the Internet and the Super Bowl back in 2013 when for 34 minutes play was interrupted by a power outage, which saw the lights in the stadium fail leaving the 72,000 in attendance in pitch black. Despite not actually using a hashtag in the original tweet it spurned many due to its brilliance, and was featured in thousands of #Blackout tags. Oreo saw an opportunity and grasped it with both hands and was more effective than any of the ads aired during the game which would have set companies back an hefty US$4 Million for a 30 second spot. Be better than the trend.

Ore Superbowl Tweet - "you can still dunk in the dark"

Despite how effective hashtags can be, they’re not the new cool kids on the block anymore. The market is saturated with brand hashtags and it’s getting harder and harder to engage with your audiences. Our last words? Make sure your hashtag is engaging-yet-relevant and supports what you’re trying to achieve.