8 of the Biggest Marketing Fails of All Time

When it comes to successfully marketing your business, creativity is key, but how far will you take creativity? When thinking of marketing campaigns for your business, you also have to think about how your execution and messaging will affect your audience. 

Let’s talk about what NOT to do. These are some of the worst marketing campaigns of all time. Don’t fail how these brands did.

1. American Airlines Free First-Class Travel

AAirpass Lifetime Pass

American Airlines offered lifetime flights for $250,000 (over $700k today)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Offering free flights in exchange for a flat fee is one of the ridiculous mistakes a company can make. In the short term, you can make money quickly, but in the long run, your business will suffer more. American Airlines’ desperate attempt to save their company, led to detrimental effects on their business. 

 In 1981, American Airlines released the AApass where buyers paid $250,000 and they received unlimited travel. Although they sold 65 AAirpass passes, the company suffered immensely. Buyers were taking advantage of the offering and making what they spent back in no time, and the company lost over $50 million dollars to date.

 

2. The Beatles Yesterday and Today “Butcher” Album

Music lovers beware, this one is slightly cringey. In 1966, the Beatles released their “Yesterday and Today” album cover which depicted them depressed in butcher smocks surrounded by raw meat and plastic doll parts. I’m not sure why they thought this was okay, but they did. Needless to say, the public was outraged and the cover was pulled. We should also note that this was the Beatles’ worst-selling album, even with the new album cover. 

 

3. Burger King Moldy Whopper

Burger King Moldy Whopper Ad Campaign

Burger King 33 Day Old Whopper

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Whoever is on Burger King’s team needs to be fired. It seems like every few years they have a good campaign followed by a bad one. How many L’s can one company take? The Moldy Whopper Campaign is hard to look at. The purpose of the campaign was to showcase that they don’t use any artificial preservatives in their Whoppers, so they launched an ad with a Whopper going moldy. 

One thing is for sure, Burger King isn’t afraid to be bold, but is that always a good thing? The ad was open and honest, but it’s not what people wanted to see. Personally, when I see mold, I want nothing to do with the food that was covered in mold. Jonathan Maze took to Twitter to garner reviews and many were not happy with the campaign. We appreciate the honesty that Burger King delivered, but overall, it’s a no for me. 

 

4. Aldi Poorest Day Challenge

In January 2020, Aldi’s UK team launched a campaign called the “Poorest Day Challenge”. They challenged a London-based influencer to buy groceries from Aldi for her family of 4 while staying under a $33 (£25) budget. Uh… no, just no. Aldi wanted to show consumers that it was easy to feed their family affordable meals, but the company received backlash. The campaign’s first fail was with its title — #PoorestDayChallenge (tasteless if you ask me). Then, you paid an influencer to take part in this challenge (tasteless… again). Third, this is people’s life and it almost seemed as if the campaign was making fun of those who are actually in poverty. 

As much as I applaud their use of influencer marketing, this wasn’t the right move. 

 

5. H&M – Coolest Monkey in the Jungle 

H&M Coolest Monkey In The Jungle Marketing Campaign

H&M Coolest Monkey In The Jungle Campaign

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In 2018, H&M received backlash for posting an ad that featured a black child in a sweatshirt that said “coolest monkey in the jungle”. Do I even have to explain what went wrong with this one? Social media was outraged; celebrities such as the Weeknd and G-Eazy voiced their dissatisfaction and cut ties with the company. Although the company issued an apology and implemented new diversity and inclusion initiatives,  the damages were done.

6. New Coke Switch 

If it ain’t broke don’t fix it. Coke and Pepsi have been going head to head for as long as anyone can remember. In 1985, Coke decided to take a big risk by announcing that they were changing their formula. The new drink was called “New Coke” and let’s just say, no one was happy about it. The company received over 400,000 angry phone calls and letters from customers over their dissatisfaction with the new product. Needless to say, the idea flopped, and within a few months, the company went back to its original recipe. 

7. Pepsi – Live for Now Moments Anthem

Kendall Jenner in Pepsi Marketing Campaign

Kendall Jenner in Pepsi Campaign

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I personally love Pepsi. I think they are better than Coke and they always do great marketing…except this one time. This campaign featured Kendall Jenner in a photoshoot where she notices a protest and she decides to join them. She walks up to an office, fist bumps him and hands him a Pepsi. Um, did she just end racial tension with a Pepsi?

No, no one found this ad in good taste. It seemed as if Pepsi was downplaying racism, police brutality, and the Black Lives Matter Movement. Naturally, Pepsi released a statement with their real intentions, but the damage was done… fizzy drinks don’t reverse centuries of oppression… sorry Pepsi.

 

8. Dove – Body Lotion Facebook Ad

dove marketing campaign fail

Dove’s Body Lotion Ad

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This one takes the cake. I don’t know what Dove was thinking when they came up with this idea, but it was poor taste and even poorer judgment. Pepsi failed, but Dove failed worse. In 2017, Dove posted a Facebook video ad that showed a black woman turning into a white woman. Racial insensitivity isn’t new to Dove, the received backlash in 2011 and 2012 for other marketing campaigns centered around highlighting lighter skin. Dove failed to embrace the beauty in diversity and as a result, they potentially tarnished the “Real Beauty” brand they spent over a decade building. 

Takeaways

Atlanta Digital Marketing Agency

Blackish episode when Dre was conflicted about doing an ad campaign that was stereotypical

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I love creativity as much as the next person, but if it comes at the cost of offending a group of people, don’t. These marketing campaign failures teach businesses that it’s important to have a team of diverse individuals involved in all parts of marketing campaigns. Be sure to conduct extensive research so that you have an idea of how your audience will potentially respond. All publicity is NOT good publicity. Don’t go viral for the wrong reasons, the effects can be irreversible.

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Dayzia Gray

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