Worst marketing fails and how to avoid them


Capturing the attention of your target audience is no picnic and the fierceness of the competition can sometimes take you to make some epic marketing fails. Marketers get inspired by daily life, social issues and viral videos and use them as resources to evoke some feeling or connection with the customer. 
The thing is, this isn’t easy to achieve, and if you don’t pay attention you may end up putting your foot in your mouth. To prevent this, here’s what you should definitely not do:

#1 Pepsi Jenner

If you don’t live with your head stuck in the sand, you’ve probably heard about the Pepsi commercial debacle starring Kendall Jenner. The supermodel/It girl is in the middle of a photoshoot with all the glitter and glam. Suddenly, a protest arises and enticed by a young man, Kendall decides to drop the act, her wig and her pose to join the demonstration. But (surprise) there’s conflict with the police.

Thankfully, Kendall is nearby to lend a helping hand and appease tensions by giving a Pepsi bottle to a police officer. All this is musicalized by Skip Marley’s song ‘Lions’ that mentions ‘the movement’ (that is how many refer to Black Lives Matter).

Though Pepsi was trying to condense the voice of generation Z in a two-and-a-half-minutes commercial, the audience was offended by the apparent trivialization of the movement and by Kendall’s participation. Why? Because, even though she is of that generation, she doesn’t particularly support BLM in any way, she doesn’t take any political or social stand for that matter. This is why it ended up being one of the worst marketing fails of 2017.

Lesson: Pick your influencer correctly and be careful about the social issues you’re indirectly addressing.

#2 Bloomingdale’s rapey ad

In the 2015 holiday catalog, Bloomingdale’s made quite a blunder: in one of the pages there’s a photo showing a woman carelessly laughing at a party while a dashing young man looks at her intently. The thing is, when you read the caption, it all turns to look a little bit creepy: ‘Spike your best friend’s eggnog when they’re not looking’. Ouch.

Of course there was a huge backlash from the audience saying they were endorsing date rape and the company had to apologize. So what happened here? How did someone think this was actually a good idea? Poor judgement can take you down on the blink of an eye.

Lesson: Screen any possible marketing campaigns two or more times if it’s necessary, never get stuck with your own opinion.

#3 Bic uncelebrates National Women’s Day

You’d think National Women’s Day would be about celebrating gender equality and women’s rights, but Bic failed to do so. In 2015, the South African Division posted an image of a young business woman and a caption supposedly celebrating and encouraging women, but completely dropped the ball. 
The post read ‘Look like a girl, act like a lady, think like a man, work like a boss’. The feedback was thoroughly negative.

Lesson: Be careful about what you’re conveying and don’t post catchy phrases just because they sound nice.

#4 Bic’s Lady-Pens

While we’re on Bic marketing fails territory, let’s talk about the pink and purple pens For Her. Or let’s hear Ellen talk about it.

Bic probably analyzed the data and decided they needed to target women in a more specific way. And what would be better than to advertise pink and purple pens as a product designed for women? This shows a lack of contact with the real consumer and the need for stepping into their shoes before coming to conclusions based on a bunch of numbers.

Lesson: Be in contact with your target audience, ask for feedback before launching a marketing campaign that may sound offensive.

#5 Kim Kardashian’s pregnancy drug

When pregnant with her first child, North, Kim was hired to advertise a morning sickness drug called Diclegis. The thing is in the US you can’t advertise a drug without stating its side effects. There was no major fuss about it, though, Kim only had to eliminate her post and re-post the influencer advertisement with a full list of side effects.

Lesson: Basically check your target country’s legal requirements. That’s it.

Marketing fails do happen but you can prevent them. And remember: if you don’t get it right the first time, assess the consequences, take the necessary measures and try harder!

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