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Can You Believe These Marketing Gaffes?

Can you believe these marketing gaffes? Really, the most important thing is what we can learn from these marketing mistakes. How do big companies make these sorts of mistakes though? I can only think of 4 really good reasons, and I share them with you in this episode.

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Today, we’re going to talk about some serious marketing gaffes, because there’s always a lesson to be learned from the missteps of others. If we don’t take the opportunity to go back and look at these mistakes, then how can we learn from them? 

This episode isn’t meant to throw shade at any one particular company, but to take the opportunity to look at what happened, what caused it, and how we can avoid those same mistakes. Nothing bad about that. No shade meant.

How Could These Marketing Mistakes Possibly Happen?!

There are a few companies that I picked in terms of what not to do, but before we get into these examples, I want to talk about some of the reasons that mistakes like these occur. 

As a consumer, when you see some of these mistakes, you may be thinking, “Oh my goodness, that company is so big! How did they make that mistake?! That’s ridiculous! They make way too much money to make these sorts of mistakes.” Or maybe, you’re thinking it’s NOT a mistake. That’s worse for the company’s brand perception.

There are a few key reasons why these mistakes might occur. 

1. Using a Cause They’re Completely Detached From

One of the reasons stems from the company trying to use or borrow a cause that they’ve never indicated any interest in. 

It doesn’t line up with their target audience or target customer demographics. They’re trying to borrow energy that’s not theirs, and it’s inauthentic. You can’t borrow energy that’s not yours to use. 

One of the best examples is when a cause or an issue comes around, a company will change its filter on Facebook or something. Some people find that really inauthentic, and there’s a good reason for that. 

2. Cultivating a Stifling and Unhealthy Company Culture

It could also be that while someone was brainstorming in the creativity meeting, nobody spoke up against it. This ties back to company culture. 

Some companies develop a culture which doesn’t encourage speaking up. There’s one person in charge of that particular team who uses a chokehold on everyone’s opinions. Only they have good opinions, and everyone else’s opinions suck. 

That’s not going to encourage anyone to speak up. 

3. Becoming Tone Deaf Due to the Lack of Diversity

Another reason might be that a company doesn’t have enough diversity in that department. Many of the examples I’m going to show you relate to diversity, in terms of different groups that they caused an uproar in. 

There may not be someone on that to say “Hey, that’s actually not a good idea. Let me explain why.” Then, it could be that there’s not enough diversity, or somebody’s got a chokehold on all the opinions. 

4. Not Doing Enough Research

The last one usually just boils down to the company not doing enough research. This is not an excuse. 

It can start at the lowest level. Somebody has a good idea and they present it to the upper echelons of a marketing department. No one in that entire chain checks. Boom! It’s bad. 

Kendall Jenner and the Pepsi Ad

First one up, you guys knew this was coming: Kendall Jenner and the Pepsi Ad

Why were people so mad? 

No matter what side of the conversation you’re on, Pepsi offered a story that had an over-simplistic solution to the situation. 

Basically, it’s Kendall Jenner with a Pepsi. She goes down, and resolves the entire issue by giving a Pepsi to a police officer, who’s standing there with a protester. 

This ties back to shootings in which black people have been killed by police officers. Pepsi wanted to appear as a unifying product, but they made it seem like that type of situation was just an easy thing to fix. It wasn’t. 

It’s institutional, and it’s deep. I think both sides can agree this stems from deeper issues. A can of Pepsi’s not going to fix it. 

Someone who disagreed with this ad idea could have easily raised their hands in the creativity meeting and said, “This is a terrible idea, especially for Kendall Jenner to be the one to pass off the Pepsi. In terms of deep issues, most people don’t take her seriously. It’s just a fact.” 

DiGiorno’s Tasteless #WhyIStayed Tweet

Another one is DiGiorno’s #WhyIStayed campaign. DiGiorno wanted their followers to use #WhyIStayed to talk about why they stayed with the brand. 

Unfortunately, it appears that the DiGiorno marketing team didn’t do enough research to find out that #WhyIStayed is a Hashtag that domestic abuse survivors typically use to talk about why they stayed in a toxic relationship. 

People ask that question, “If your spouse is doing that, why do you stay?” Well, that’s the responding hashtag. 

They could have easily popped that into Twitter and realized the truth, before assuming that any idea you have for a hashtag is original. 

Ford’s Offensive Car Ad

A really bad one was Ford using bound and gagged women to show how much space their new hatchback had. This never used ad was created in 2013. It received a surge of disparagement around the time that Harvey Weinstein was big in the news and the #MeToo movement was taking off.  

When people saw this ad, they were obviously appalled. Why didn’t somebody tell them that that was a terrible idea? I don’t know. 

We know Ford wasn’t trying to advocate for violence against women, but it came out anyway. It’s offensive. It hurts people. Ford is perceived as being too large a company to make these sorts of mistakes. Ford actually didn’t use the ad, but it came out anyway.

Dove’s Racially Insensitive Ad

Dove had a short ad, in which a black woman turns into a white woman. The ad was deemed racist and everyone was outraged. 

However, Dove’s response was that they were just trying to convey that their product is for everyone. Diversity. Anybody can use this product. It’s great for anyone’s skin. 

Unfortunately, the ad heralded back to the advertising gimmick of cleaning a black person into whiteness. This is something that we’ve seen with marketing companies from the 1900s, all the way into the last years. 

The soap was so great, it could clean a black person into a white person! Obviously that’s incredibly racist and very offensive. 

Dove’s intention and how they were perceived were obviously very different things. Again, you just have to wonder why someone didn’t say that this was a terrible idea. 

The Takeaway of All These Marketing Mistakes

What we’ve learned from these marketing missteps is that companies need to:

  • Introduce some of their marketing concepts to focus groups before they release them
  • Encourage people on the marketing team to speak up
  • Make an effort to get a diversified group of people to offer opinions, skills, knowledge, and personal life experiences

As companies try to touch upon more and more issues that matter to us, it would be better for them to take perspectives that appeal to us as consumers into consideration. They also have to consider how they may turn us off, which is something you should always focus on in your marketing, especially with popular culture and current events. 

Are you engaging in any bad marketing practices? Take a look at our Bad Marketing article and video and find out!