Marketing strategy gone wrong

Sunny Co. Clothing promotes free swimsuit but plan backfires

More stories from Stephanie Smith



The infamous red bathing suit picture was traveling all over social media last Wednesday as over 100,000 people reposted it in hopes to win a free swimsuit.

If you scrolled through Instagram last week Wednesday and were bombarded with the same picture of a brunette girl sitting by a pool in a red swimsuit, you are not alone.

A small company called Sunny Co. Clothing, run by two college men from the University of Arizona, decided to promote their brand on Instagram by promising a free bathing suit to all who reposted the picture before 3 p.m. on May 3.

Sunny Co. Clothing posted the now infamous image with a caption “Everyone that reposts and tags us in this picture within the next 24 hours will receive a free Pamela Sunny Suit. Promo ends May 3 2017 at 3 p.m. Must pay shipping and handling.”

More than 100,000 people ended up posting the photo, including me — guilty as charged, but I also wondered how such a company would be able to deliver such a high quantity of product.

The problem was that Sunny Co. Clothing was not prepared for the promotion to go as viral as it did and did not have the time, the money or the materials to deliver their promise.

Their entire Instagram account including the original post, was deleted by Friday after announcing not everyone will receive the swimsuit as promised.

The company meant well while originally posting the image and promoting the giveaway. However, the company should have either been prepared for the number of responses they received or they should not have allowed people to win a free swimsuit for  full 24 hours.

Advertising is always needed, but in this case, the advertising went overboard.

Not only did this strategy make me extremely annoyed after seeing the same post on my social media feed all day, but this strategy potentially damaged the company for good.

Instagrammers  were torn between whether this was an ingenious way to score a free swimsuit, or if it was purely a scheme intended to serve as free marketing for the small and new company.

This didn’t seem to stop people from at least giving it a try, because who wouldn’t want a free swimsuit?

A few hours after too many people reposted the image, the brand posted a follow-up to its announcement with additional rules and disclosures, such as how it “reserve  the right to cap the promotion if deemed necessary.”

Some of those who actually won the giveaway and were given the promo code received an order summary noting they had been charged the full price for the Pamela suit as well as the shipping and handing.

When these angry customers tried to reach out to the company on social media, they were not given a strong solution right away, and the company clearly wasn’t expecting this problem to occur.

“We truly had no idea the response was going to be so overwhelming and we are very sorry for any confusion,” they wrote. “We will make our best effort to honor our offer for the first 50,000 orders placed on Wednesday, May 3, 2017. If you accidentally placed an order without using the discount code, we will refund you the price of the swimsuit. However, we will not be able to refund transaction fees.”

The company just hit its peak and it may be hard to bounce back after this chaotic period for them. It will be hard to get back on their feet financially and it will be hard for them to maintain their popularity and credibility after they just failed to deliver their promise of free swimsuits for everyone who reposted.

It is at least a good sign the majority of Sunny Co. Clothing’s products are sold out online, but the high demand for their products will only last so long.

This incident goes to show how big social media has gotten and how fast everything spreads. It is also a good reminder for other companies to know if something is promoted free, it is going to spread fast. They need to know what they are getting into before they bite off more than they can chew.