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7 Of the Biggest Marketing Fails (And What We Discovered)

Creative imagination and in-depth brand understanding are required for effective marketing initiatives. But not all innovative endeavors succeed, and sometimes they may result in embarrassing marketing blunders. Failures in marketing may occur to anybody. Even the most well-known and reputable businesses sometimes fail to convey the intended message.

We'll list the seven worst marketing blunders ever in this post. We'll talk about why they failed as well as some important lessons we can learn from each one. Let's get going!

1. Burger King’s Women’s Day Tweets

On March 8, 2021, International Women's Day, Burger King UK sent a tweet that infuriated the marketing community. They tweeted three times in quick succession, the first of which said, "Women belong in the kitchen." A second tweet that said "If they want to, of course" was sent after this one. The gender disparities in the restaurant business were also mentioned.

(Source: Adweek)

A third post that announced their scholarship for women in the culinary arts brought this mess to an end. Even though the initial tweet was meant to get their followers' attention, it came off as excessively sexist, particularly given that it was Women's Day. The campaign thus failed to produce the desired outcome and was simply met with their readers' enraged outrage. Some of them even mentioned how damaging a tweet like that would be to the battle for women's rights.

Burger King removed the tweets and issued an apology for their lack of sensitivity shortly after the outrage went viral.

What We Discovered

Here is one of the most significant lessons we have taken away from one of Burger King's most embarrassing marketing flops. You shouldn't approach the various social media channels in the same way. This is such that what may function well on one platform may fail miserably on another.

The phrasing of social media postings should be carefully considered, and you should never publish anything that can come out as controversial just to get people's attention. As in this situation, people can misunderstand your meaning, which might result in a hostile response and the loss of supporters.

2. The Infamous Wedding Advertisement from Audi

Another of the most notorious marketing blunders in history included an Audi ad, which may seem absurd. The bride and groom were ready to exchange vows when the bride's future mother-in-law interrupted the ceremony. As soon as she gets close to the pair, she begins examining the bride's teeth, ears, and nose in a similar way to how one would examine animals. The image shifts to a red Audi and a male voice stating that a significant choice must be taken carefully as the lady nods in approval.

(Source: USA Today)

Audi intended to show viewers how their used vehicles are inspected, but the video came out as objectifying women by equating their worth to that of a used automobile. This caused social media platforms to go into a frenzy of indignation, particularly once it was discovered that the advertisement was intended for the Chinese market of Audi. Therefore, Audi issued an apology and took the advertisement off the air.

What We Discovered

The key takeaway from one of Audi's rare marketing blunders is that not all viewers will get the point you are making. Therefore you want to constantly have a variety of audiences examine your advertisement before disseminating it in public.

By doing this, you can make sure that your presentations are always acceptable and clear. Like the previous marketing blunder on our list, it's crucial to steer clear of touchy or contentious themes. By doing this, you may assist prevent brand-damaging marketing blunders in the future.

3. Loss of Millions of Dollars from AAirpass on American Airlines

American Airlines was having financial issues in the 1980s and was seeking for a means to generate money rapidly. This resulted in the development of the AAirpass, an unrestricted first-class flying membership that was offered for a fixed price of $250,000.

(Source: Marketing Lovers)

Although the concept seemed to be a solid one on paper, the firm lost millions of dollars almost immediately due to the huge number of trips taken by AAirpass customers. Infuriated consumers filed lawsuits against the business when it attempted to cancel their subscriptions, making it one of the most expensive marketing blunders in history.

What We Discovered

When giving your consumers incentives, you should never forget to add certain terms and conditions. These requirements should shield you from damages brought on by recipients abusing them.

Before launching a new incentive or campaign, it's crucial to do proper testing and research. This program is often referred to as a "pilot" or "trial" program. You'll be able to launch the broader campaign with more knowledge if you test the incentive on a smaller sample of customers.

4. Social Activism at Pepsi Mistake Involving Kendall Jenner

In a 2017 Pepsi ad, Kendall Jenner participates in a demonstration and gives a Pepsi can to a police officer who is obstructing the demonstrators. Due to the political undertone, it was thought that by converting the protest into a party, the Black Lives Matter movement had been trivialized.

(Source: New York Times)

“If only Daddy had known about the power of Pepsi”, said Martin Luther King's daughter in response to this marketing blunder. Pepsi pulled the advertisement and apologized for missing the target because of the outcry.

What We Discovered

You shouldn't utilize divisive subjects to advertise your goods or services. It may cause your audience to become more divided, you to lose clients, and it may cost you money. Yes, it's crucial to maintain creativity in your message. Maintaining a good brand reputation is crucial as your marketing effort gets underway, however.

5. Dove Body Wash Advertisement

Failures in marketing are due to statements that are seen as racist as well as sensitive subjects. In a Dove body wash ad, women with various skin tones removed their tops to expose the person in line behind them. It was believed that a black lady might become a white woman by using the body wash. All of Dove's goods were heavily boycotted because of this.

(Source: NBC News)

What We Discovered

Celebrate diversity, but to make sure it's done well, run your ad by various groups before releasing it. Think of the different audiences that will see the advertisement and how they may feel. Keep in mind that there may be groups that find the message you post objectionable.

6. 1985 Coca-Cola’s “New Coke” Flavor

The company's whole taste had to be retired because of this marketing campaign's failure, which will go down in the annals of marketing blunders. According to the advertisement, more than 50% of consumers preferred New Coke over the old taste.

Consumers didn't like the flavor of the product when it first came out. Calls and mails requesting the reintroduction of the old taste were deluged into Coca-Cola. The result of this was the creation of "Coca-Cola Classic."

(Source: History)

What We Discovered

Here, the basic adage applies don't change what isn't broken. You could discover that your clients do not respond to your new, upgraded product as positively as you anticipated.

7. The Huggies "The Dad Test"

Huggies produced the "The Dad Test" advertisement to demonstrate how the frustrated "Dad" may be successful using the diapers. It showed novice dads who had no prior parenting experience using diapers, yet the diapers were nonetheless effective. Sadly, the message made fun of the fact that dads lacked expertise and demanded assistance.

(Source: The Writing and Creative)

Many individuals (mostly fathers) were offended by the message and submitted petitions on to oppose the advertising. After listening to complaints from viewers, Huggies issued an apology. Huggies changed the message of "The Dad Test" rather than eliminating all the material, focusing on portraying strong, self-assured fathers who would value the high quality of the product.

What We Discovered

Avoid categorizing individuals in your marketing efforts if you want to have fun with it. Your clients may get offended by this and stop buying your items as a result. Change your message if you can support and uplift certain demographics. This might give your advertising a more positive tone, enhancing your entire reputation.

Additional Lessons from Marketing Mistakes

Lesson #1: It's hard to predict trends, but it's crucial to be ready

Of course, it's impossible to predict every trend that may emerge. We are constantly taken off guard by events in ways we could never have predicted. Although you can't predict trends, you can learn from previous accomplishments.

Relying on prior triumphs is crucial for businesses. There is a strong likelihood that something will continue to function well for you if it has in the past.

Lesson #2: Avoid wasting time on unsuccessful campaigns

It's crucial to master the art of marketing scrambling in this regard. People will come to the realization that they have missed the boat on several occasions during their careers. Jumping in with both feet and using a band-aid approach to tackle the issue doesn't truly make it go away.

Most of the time, customers, clients, and the public can see through it. Ultimately, the corporation still must find a solution to the broader issue. Consider your options. Consider what your consumers genuinely want from your company by placing yourself in their shoes.

All parties will benefit more from thoughtful ideas, even if they take a little longer to implement. Customers get what they want, and businesses can provide the answers they need. And if your business is a bit sluggish to develop the appropriate answers, own up to it. These honesty-related factors often gain clients' trust more than anything else.

Lesson #3: Take charge of your environment and strive to be your best.

Every company out there needs a justification for what it does. In most cases, this is motivated by a love for their work and a desire to excel at it. Any firm will certainly face difficulties and blunders, yet it is still possible to succeed.

Own your brand for local companies and interact with consumers on social media and other marketing channels. Customers will come if you put in the effort to be the greatest at what you do. A mistake is seldom so severe that it cannot be corrected.


Salty Red Dog Marketing, LLC is a marketing agency in Red Bank, NJ, Westport, CT, and everywhere in between. We service businesses with marketing strategies, digital marketing, social media, and consultations.

Phone: (732) 897-5769

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