Marketing campaigns are meant to attract viewers to a brand or product. But sometimes things go wrong even for the most well-meaning marketers.
Companies trying to stand out adopt the most bizarre ideas in marketing. They might sound great initially. Some even found tremendous success. Others, however, find themselves in the limelight for the wrong reasons.
It is never great to see what should be a good marketing campaign, head south. This is usually due to oversight on the marketer’s part. Here we give you a rundown of recent, infamous cases of marketing #gonewrong:
Pepsi’s “Live for Now” ad
This ad was pulled only one day after it was released. You have to wonder how badly it fared for Pepsi considering they even had Kendall Jenner in it. It was supposed to get people to unite and ‘join the conversation’. However, people ended up doing the opposite: they dissed Pepsi’s insensitivity to social justice causes on Twitter.
The most common complaint viewers had about the ad was that it trivialised the significance of the Black Lives Matter protest. It seemed to have suggested that the most effective way to resolve the tense issue is with a can of soda. Can we truly solve the large issue of institutional racism with a can of soft drink?
Nivea’s “White is Purity”
It is unclear whether the racist tones of this advert were intentional. Either way, netizens were quick to pounce on the ad, turning it into meme fodder.
As if things could not get any worse, alt-right media users started endorsing the ad, making Nivea credible amongst white supremacists and pro-Nazi groups.
Interestingly, this was not the first, perceptibly ‘racist’ ad Nivea released. Back in 2011, the German company released an advert portraying a black man throwing away his natural, afro hairstyle.
Sony’s “White is Coming”
This was yet another marketing campaign accused of having racist undertones. The ad, promoting the new white PSP, featured a white woman grabbing a black woman in an aggressive manner with text reading ‘PlayStation Portable. White is Coming’.
Surely there could have been better ways to promote a gaming device. Yet for some reason, the advertisement was green-lit. This was back in 2006.
The infamous advert re-emerged in 2017 thanks to a viral tweet on Twitter, leading people to wrongly accuse Sony of using racist marketing tactics in 2017.
Hasbro’s Monopoly for Millennials
This was yet another problematic promotional campaign. The main issue with this campaign is that it offended the very audience it was trying to target and sell to. While controversies are good for marketing, sometimes they can be too much for their own good. Amazon reviews of the board game are mostly negative as it provoked the ire of millennials. The board game seems to mock the crippling circumstances they have to live with i.e. mounting student debt and #adulting.
Fanta’s 75th anniversary advertisement references to Nazi Germany
When your company has ties to the most infamous genocide in history, it is generally wise to avoid invoking ‘nostalgia’ for the event. Hugo Boss and Volkswagen are companies which make great efforts to stay away from their Nazi Germany origins.
While the Fanta video does not explicitly refer to Nazi Germany, it does implicitly refer to Nazi Germany’s past as ‘good old times’. Fanta was first started in Nazi Germany due to an embargo on ingredients. This made it hard for Germany to produce Coke. The ad was pulled as a result.
Their misguided attempt to invoke nostalgia for a traumatic period in history resulted in people becoming aware of the little-known fact: Fanta was born in Nazi Germany. Unfortunately that’s what most people are going to associate Fanta with now, moving forward.
Cartoon Network’s Boston Mooninite Panic
Unlike the above, this campaign had more serious consequences for those involved.
In a bid to promote Adult Swim’s Aqua Teen Hunger Force, a guerrilla marketing agency Interference, Inc. set up magnetic light displays around Boston. Mistaken for IEDs, the police subsequently mistook them for ‘bomb threats’. They sent in their bomb squads and shut down subways and roads.
In this way, a guerrilla marketing campaign turned into a week-long saga of angry authorities and amusement from people across the nation.
The marketers from Interference, Inc. were arrested. In addition, the head of Cartoon Network resigned in the wake of the backlash.
At the end of the day, marketers do not create marketing campaigns with the goal to harm individuals with derogatory narratives. However, because of certain social contexts that pop culture deems taboo, they come across that way. As a result, one poor decision can undo all the good press that has been built up.
Do you have any more examples to add to this list? What can marketers do to avoid alienating their audience? Do let us know in the comments.
Written by: (www.script.com.sg) Edited & Illustrated by: Script Consultants Pte Ltd