McDonald’s Internet meme for Shamrock Shakes risks going from #Shamrocking hashtag to bashtag

jennifervivian    March 16, 2012

Toronto Star
Morgan Campbell – Business Reporter

To boost sales of its popular Shamrock Shake, McDonald’s is marketing by meme.

Think of “Shamrocking” as “Tebowing” without the prayer and spontaneity.

Instead of kneeling in honour of devout Denver Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow, McDonald’s customers buy a mint-flavoured Shamrock Shake, pose for photos with it then post the pictures to Twitter with the #shamrocking hashtag.

But unlike Tebowing, a name that arose organically as the trend spread, McDonald’s supplied the #shamrocking hashtag, hoping it would drive conversation and sales of its novelty product.

As sites like Facebook and Twitter become more ubiquitous companies are increasingly eager to harness the marketing power of social media.

But controlling social media for marketing gain is infinitely more difficult, as McDonald’s learned painfully last year.

The company’s first attempted at a Twitter-based social marketing campaign failed spectacularly when the hashtag #McDStories, intended to prompt tweeters to share warm memories of the restaurant, instead provided a forum for McDonald’s horror stories.

Earlier Friday, Rogers Communications introduced the #Rogers1Number hashtag to Twitter, hoping to generate positive talk about its latest initiative linking phone numbers to personal computers. The phrase quickly became a hot trending topic, mainly because Twitter used it to complain about poor service and contracts from Rogers.

By Friday afternoon a search of the #shamrocking timeline suggested the phrase had already morphed from hashtag to bashtag.

“All definitions of #shamrocking sound fun (unless you’re a prude),” tweeted Jonas Thaler. “Except for the one where you buy a #McDonald’s drink & dance like an idiot.”