I’m frankly surprised it has taken this long for hashtags in commercials and advertising to die off like they have. While I understand the desire to try to drive conversation around your brand, and allow for easy ways to both discover and measure that conversation, the simple fact is this: people don’t like to be told what to do.
When you’re pushing a hashtag from a commercial point of view, particularly one where it’s all really around trying to build some kind of viral marketing campaign, people see it and shy away. Social media hashtags are much more organic, and are adopted in the same manner. They arise themselves out of conversation, and aren’t something that can be forced.
It’s like trying to “make fetch happen.”
That said, I do agree that having a hashtag promoted that ties into something that is specifically conversational can make sense. For example, The Walking Dead has done a great job of promoting the hashtag #TheWalkingDead around their broadcasts, as there is a strong community of fans who are eager to live chat about what’s going on while an episode is broadcast (or share their thoughts afterwards).
The difference here is that they are giving a community a specific hashtag through which to funnel an already existing discussion, instead of trying to force a discussion to happen in the first place.
According to a report, references to hashtags appeared in just 30% of Super Bowl 51’s commercials this year, down from 45% a year ago.