9 Times Brands Completely Missed the Mark

Take note: Consumers are not afraid to call them out, either

Mark Zuckerberg high-fives during a misplaced VR promotion.

Through trial and error, digital marketers have figured out that consumers are now looking for more of an authentic message when it comes to marketing. They want to know that you are being real with your advertisements and not just spewing lies in order to produce sales. It’s morals over money, even though a lot of companies are only interested in the latter. Because of this, there has been an increase in marketing faux pas in recent years where brands just missed the mark completely, prompting viewers to ask: “What the heck is going on with their marketing team?” More times than not, it’s evident that there isn’t a lot of diversity within these teams, resulting in incorrect messaging and—even worse—crisis management. Hopefully there is something to learn from these brand marketing fails.

McDonald’s Filet-O-Fish spot

A commercial that seemed to exploit child bereavement with hopes of increasing Filet-O-Fish sales was met with huge backlash from those who have lost a parent or other family member. It prompted McDonald’s to immediately pull the ad and issue a formal apology. It’s evident that consumers don’t enjoy being unnecessarily triggered in the name of a fish sandwich.

Kylie x Kendall Jenner Vintage t-shirt fail

The Jenner sisters printed some T-shirts featuring vintage images of celebs, including Ozzy Osbourne, Notorious B.I.G and Tupac, but with their own faces slapped on top. They didn’t have permission to use such images, though, and were served with cease-and-desist papers almost immediately.

ColourPop’s questionable shade names

Cosmetic brand ColourPop launched a new line of lipsticks with all newly named shades. However, the darker shades were named problematically: “Yikes,” “Dume” and “Typo” all attracted negative press.

Reformation posing in factory

An Instagram post of a model posing in a $200 dress in front of people who appear to be garment factory workers came off as super condescending, and Reformation agreed. It ended up deleting the post just minutes after posting because of comments.

Misguided Photoshops stretch marks

For a campaign on body positivity, instead of hiring real models with stretch marks, Misguided Clothing decided to Photoshop them on their models, which was easily seen as fake body positivity.

Colgate’s frozen dinners

Not sure who thought this was a great idea, but this did come to fruition and failed very quickly. I guess people weren’t too keen on trusting Colgate with things other than dental health.

Ink! Coffee Praises Gentrification

When this coffee shop posted that it was “happily gentrifying the neighborhood since 2014,” people were not having it, and some even vandalized the shop. Not the brand’s proudest PR moment, to say the least.

Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook Virtual Reality in Puerto Rico

Mark Zuckerberg was trying to showcase the newest VR Facebook feature while also raising awareness in different parts of the world. Where he missed the mark was using Puerto Rico, which had just been hit hard by Hurricane Maria. Laughing and high-fiving with his VR partner in the midst of Puerto Ricans’ grief came across as incredibly insensitive.

American Airlines AAirpass lifetime ticket

Maybe American Airlines didn’t think it would get that many people to take advantage of its lifetime first-class ticket program in the ’80s—priced at $250,000 at the time. But it did, and it ultimately cost the brand millions per year because of the demand.


Jessica Buck is a freelance writer for Adweek.
Publish date: October 25, 2019 https://stage.adweek.com/brand-marketing/9-times-brands-completely-missed-the-mark/ © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT
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