With Christmas looming around the corner and the promise of 2018 starting to rear its head, it seems only natural to reflect on the year gone by. 2017 has been a year full of some incredibly captivating and engaging advertising campaigns by a range of incredible brands all over the globe, however, there have also been a few marketing campaigns which didn’t quite hit the mark with their desired audiences.
Pepsi & Kendall Jenner
The Kardashian clan are said to be worth a whopping $450 million dollars combined, a figure which is of course rising almost by the second. When Pepsi signed a deal with supermodel Kendall Jenner, the result of their advert could have been a huge success, taking advantage of Kendall’s huge popularity with a young audience. However, the end result of their advert is exactly why they’ve made number 1 on our list of marketing fails for 2017.
Their controversial advert depicts a group of protestors campaigning for social justice and met with a wall of police officers. Kendall Jenner is seen seemingly diffusing the tension between protesters and the police by handing them a can of Pepsi. Thanks to the potency and importance of the Black Lives Matter campaign, and the advert’s perceived nonchalance towards campaigning for what you believe in, it’s safe to say the advert left a sour taste in the mouths of many. Indeed, there were so many complaints and critique pieces of Pepsi’s advert that they pulled it and released an official apology for having ‘missed the mark’. The brand also apologised to Kendall for her involvement in the advert.
It’s easy to see what Pepsi’s intentions were. They wanted to start a conversation, appearing to tackle the topical concept of protesting for social injustice whilst simultaneously promoting their product. However, the end result was an advert which wasn’t quite as sensitive as they’d hoped, and actually pretty offensive to many who campaign for social justice issues they believe in.
Few brands manage to build such an iconic hype around the launch of their products like Apple do. Apple have one of the most consistent and clean brand aesthetics in the world, specialising in creating products which are beautiful as well as innovative. They’ve almost accrued a cult like status, with millions of individuals around the world investing in their products year after year.
When launching their latest iPhone, the iPhone X, Apple were proud to announce they had created and embedded an incredible and innovative facial recognition technology within the new phone. However, rather embarrassingly, when it came to the launch of the product itself, Craig Federighi went to demonstrate the facial recognition software, and only managed to demonstrate that it didn’t quite work.
‘Unlocking it is as easy as looking at it and swiping up’, a proud Federighi told the audience, only for the demonstration to fail - pretty spectacularly too. Twitter found this little mishap hilarious, and Apple quickly became the subject of many a meme. They say all publicity is good publicity, right?
It can be pretty easy for advertising campaigns to be accidentally insensitive or offensive without initially realising it, but when an advert is labelled as racist, it’s pretty safe to label the campaign a fail.
This year Dove launched their ‘black to white’ advert on their Facebook page which showed a black woman turning into a white woman after using Dove body lotion. The woman of colour is wearing a brown top, which she removes to be replaced by a woman wearing a white top.
After momentous backlash on social media, the brand posted on Twitter “An image we recently posted on Facebook missed the mark in representing women of colour thoughtfully. We deeply regret the offence it caused.”
The interesting part? It’s not the first time Dove have been accused of putting out a racist advert. They also received negative comments for an advert in 2011, similarly depicting a black woman turning into a white woman after using Dove products.
Gary Lineker & Walkers
Whilst we don’t encourage laughing at a brand’s marketing fails because we could all learn from them, it’s difficult not to doff your cap to the good old British sense of humour when you observe cases like the Walkers campaign fail this year.
The ‘Walkers Wave’ campaign asked Twitter users to respond to the tweet with a selfie and including the hashtag, for a chance to win tickets to a Champions League football match. The user’s picture would be automatically incorporated into a personalised video, with Gary Lineker holding up the user’s picture in an automatic tweet by the brand.
It only took a few hours for Gary Lineker to be seen proudly brandishing images of notorious serial killers Fred West and Harold Shipman, proving that brands need to be a little more savvy and switched on when it comes to relying on user generated content for a marketing campaign.
Zoella Advent Calendar
Arguably the most topical marketing fail to make the shortlist, YouTube phenomenon Zoella’s recently launched advent calendar has been met with a lot of criticism on social media, causing retailer Boots to half the price of the calendar as a result of backlash.
Zoella’s Christmas advent calendar features only 12 days, and costs a pretty hefty £50 - a sizeable price tag considering the target audience for the product. It’s come under scrutiny thanks to a series of reviews which found the calendar to contain some confetti, some cookie cutters and a pen, seemingly not quite meeting the expectations of a £50 price tag.
Zoe Sugg took to her YouTube channel to address her 12 million+ followers about the controversy, stating that ‘Once the product is done and I am happy with it, the retailer can decide how much they sell that for, that’s completely out of my decision making. I don’t have the right to make those decisions.’ However, Boots responded on Twitter by claiming that they ‘sell products at the recommended price, as set by the manufacturer or supplier’, seemingly contradicting Zoe’s statement, which claimed no responsibility for the cost of the item.
Of course, Zoella is a business and needs to ensure her products are profitable, but angry parents are claiming their children are being exploited and that Zoe Sugg should have been more mindful of her target audience. Not only that, but it’s now unclear how much involvement she actually had in the costing element - with both parties refusing to claim responsibility. Right or wrong, it seems that Zoella missed the mark with the costing of her advent calendar.
Adidas’ Boston Marathon Email
Running a marathon is an incredible achievement, so the last thing you need after crossing the line is for an offensive email to drop into your inbox by one of the biggest sporting brands in the world. Indeed, Adidas made a significant booboo after this year’s Boston Marathon, by emailing all customers who had participated in the marathon a newsletter which exclaimed ‘Congrats, you survived the Boston marathon!’ in the header.
Of course, in 2013 the Boston marathon was subject to a harrowing terrorist attack which tragically killed three people and injured more than 250. It’s clear to see that Adidas were simply trying to congratulate their customers on their incredible achievement, however, a clear lack of thought went into the headline, and the phrasing was met with a huge backlash, and justifiably so, about it being insensitive and too soon after the dreadful attack.
Fyre Festival turned out to be one of the most disastrous marketing campaigns of 2017, having pulled the wool over the eyes of hundreds of young people in America, who flew to the Bahamas for what was supposed to be an exclusive music festival to rival Coachella, only to be met with a glorified refugee camp and not much of a festival at all.
Fyre Festival was the brainchild of Billy McFarland and 90s rapper Ja Rule, promising a music festival with an incredible lineup, celebrity chefs, private villas and a guest list full of social media influencers. Tickets costed up to $12,000, and the festival was backed by celebrities like Gigi Hadid and Kendall Jenner (twice in one year for Kendall, ouch!).
Ticket holder were met with a site that just wasn’t ready. The accommodation, which was billed as luxury camping, was actually leftover tents used for refugees. The ‘catering’, which had cost extra, was a slice of untoasted bread and two slices of questionable looking cheese. They had essentially been duped into flying to a muddy building site - a far cry from the exclusive festival experience social media had promised them.
So, what can we learn from this?
It’s important to note that many of the brands featured in this list are some of the biggest and most influential brands in the world. Simple mistakes and poor judgement can cause an exciting marketing campaign to alienate and offend audiences in an instant, which is why it’s so important to pitch your marketing campaign just right. Take note of these marketing fails, and remember to scrutinise any marketing material you’re planning on posting to the nth degree. Marketing is supposed to be fun, exciting and drive sales and brand awareness within your target market - certainly not the opposite!Return back to Knowledge