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Top 10 Failed Marketing Campaigns

a failed sheets advert billboard

Pepsi & Jenner - 2017

In 2017, Pepsi released a commercial with Kendall Jenner to promote their product. However, it failed in a way that no one at Pepsi expected..

The video Ad showed Kendall spotting a protest in the middle of a photoshoot and going over, handing a police officer a can of Pepsi, seemingly stopping the protest.

 

Bad call.

 

Kendell Jenner handing a pepsi to a police officer
Reebok's mysoginistic advert

Reebok - 2012

Reebok showed poor taste in this advertising campaign in Germany.

 

A poster advertising Reebok at a gym affiliated with the brand in Germany, was intended to motivate its customers, with the slogan: 'Cheat on your girlfriend, not on your workout.' However, it was met with consumer backlash, this made the sportswear firm pull the ad and saw them acknowledge that it was 'offensive'.

 

Reebok released a statement saying, “We regret that some offensive Reebok materials were recently printed. The signs were removed as soon as we were made aware of them. I can assure you that Reebok does not condone this message or cheating in any way. We apologize for the offensive nature of these materials, and are disappointed that they appeared at all."

Sony PSP - 2006

This Sony advert left consumers wondering if there was a racial bias under it. In an advert for their new white PSP, Sony released a poster showing a white woman grasping the face of a black model, with the words, "PlayStation Portable White is coming". The ad split the comments section, with half of their consumers condemning Sony and the other half saying it was a harmless advert for a white PSP.

 

A Sony spokesperson came out with a statement justifying the ad saying, "All of the 100 or so images created for the campaign have been designed to show [the] contrast in colours of the PSPs, and have no other message or purpose."

Pepsi's racist advert
Gillete's the best a man can be advert

The Future

The razor brand released a new campaign, replacing their original tagline, "The best a man can get", with "The best men can be”. The new campaign advert was watched 2 million times on YouTube in the first 48 hours and sparked major debate. Whilst some praised the company for their new forward thinking, others have referred to the company as now being “dead”. In the ad it shows images of bullying, sexual harassment, sexist behaviour and aggressive male behaviour. It then displays these acts being stopped and prevented, for example, a friend stopping his other friend harassing a woman in the street. Many of the comments on the video are negative, with viewers and consumers saying they will never buy Gillette products again and that the company had fallen into "feminist propaganda".

 

Some have called for Gillette to make a formal apology, however, the brand is sticking to their beliefs. Gillette's President, Gary Coombe, said, “By holding each other accountable, eliminating excuses for bad behaviour, and supporting a new generation working toward their personal 'best,' we can help create positive change that will matter for years to come.”

Innocent - 2019

The drinks brand known for its playful marketing, decided to support its new range of nut milks with the announcement of a new seasonal addition, “Conker Milk” via its social media channels. However, the brand had to quickly release a thread of tweets to clarify that you should not eat or drink conkers.

 

“We didn’t think anyone would believe Conker Milk was real,” said the brand. “We reckon the best thing we can do is hold our hands up, admit we messed up, and say DO NOT EAT CONKERS. Over and over again. In big capital letters.” They also released a video on their social media called, “A public service announcement about not eating conkers.” A lot of social media users and consumers were still left confused, meaning Innocent replied to a lot of tweets telling people to not eat conkers. The moral of this bad marketing campaign: don’t eat conkers.

Innocent's PR release in response to their conker milk advert that backfired
PureGym's insensitive 12 years a slave advert

PureGym -2020

PureGym personal trainer Matt Simpson has come under fire for his latest workout.

 

The Assistant General Manager of PureGym Luton posted a '12 Years of Slave' routine to celebrate Black History month. In his Facebook post, he compared the workout to slavery, writing: 'Slavery is hard and so is this'.

 

The post was instantly met with intense backlash and was quickly deleted from PureGym's Facebook account, but not before it was seen by the public.

 

PureGym released an apology and said it was 'wholly unacceptable'.

The Co-op - 2017

Co-op released a print ad in newspapers that invited people to reward their daughters with a chocolate Easter egg, for ‘doing the washing up.’

 

Unsurprisingly, they got backlash for it. They were called out for ‘outrageous sexism’ and quickly changed their advert. The supermarket chain quickly released an apology but the damage had already been done.

the co-op's sexist advert
Paddy Power's anti-immigration lorry advert

Paddy Power - 2015

Paddy power missed the mark with this ad.

 

Not only was it released in the middle of an immigrant crisis in the UK, but it was also used on lorries which are often linked to the transportation of immigrants. Paddy Power released their ad which features pictures of British athletes born overseas with the slogan ‘Immigrants, jump in the back (but only if you’re good at sport).’

 

They were seen to be making light of the immigrant crisis in Calais and causing offence “merely to attract attention”. A Paddy Power spokesman said: “We did not design the ad to cause offence or to be insulting to immigrants, rather we were simply referencing a long-running joke regarding Andy Murray’s nationality and it was just that – a joke. We regret any offence that was taken by the complainants.”

Ancestry.com - 2019

The genealogy website, Ancestry.com released an ad that showed a white man and a black woman in a romantic relationship.

 

This was seemingly harmless, however, it was set in the American South during the era of slavery. The message of the ad was not clear, and people didn’t like the fact that the company was seen as trying to romanticise slavery.

Ancenstry's racially insensitive advert depicting a bi-racial couple throughout history
Giant Food's  advert that encouraged people to plan a 'super spread' during the early days of the pandemic

Giant Foods - 2020

During the pandemic Giant Foods released an ad for thanksgiving. However, the wording of the ad and the time it was released did not go down well. The ad said “Hosting? Why not plan a super spread.”mThis was released at the time when big gatherings were advised against and the wording “super spread” reminds you of superspreading the virus. In addition, many lost their jobs during the pandemic, therefore could not afford to put on a thanksgiving let alone a “super spread”. 

 

The company acknowledged their mistake and released this statement. "We apologize for our advertisement in Savory which used the language Super Spread to describe an abundance of food. While, in hindsight, the choice of words was a poor one, Giant had no intentions of insensitivity. We continue to encourage people to practice safe social distancing practices for celebrating the holidays in line with CDC recommendations. 2020 has been exceptionally challenging for so many reasons and this year the holidays will be celebrated very differently, but we hope that food can still be a source of joy and comfort and that the ad reflects that spirit."

What we Learned

What we can learn from all of these marketing fails, is that when planning campaigns, they need to be thoroughly thought about. In your campaigns you need to be clear about what your intended message is and that it is coming across clearly.

 

Going viral or becoming a meme is great publicity for any business or brand, however, you want to be going viral for the right reasons.

 

The best way for your marketing campaign to be a success is with detailed planning and great ideas. At Dashing Duck we can help with all of these! If you want to avoid becoming a marketing failure, speak with us today.

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