Even the biggest brands have made some pretty silly advertising mistakes. The penalties can cause brands all sorts of strife; losing revenue, company image going up in flames and huge declines of customer trust. Let’s be honest, no one is perfect and everyone makes mistakes (even us marketers) but let’s count down the top ten marketing blunders of our time. Some are outright hilarious but let’s try and learn from their mistakes. So without further ado, here are the top six:
Number Six: “Abstain for the Game” camp-pain!
My favourite Marketing campaign bust came about in the year of 2011 in a little wee country called New Zealand. I remember it quite fondly. I was at University at the time and remember my Professor asking our class “right guys, what went wrong here?”
The story begins with the major telecommunication company Telecom (Australia’s Telstra) being the major sponsor of the 2011 Rugby World Cup hosted in New Zealand. As you all know, New Zealand is a little bit cray-cray about rugby. So the Marketing team had a gold mine in their hand; a true chance to showcase their brand to NZ and the world. This did not happen.
A brief description:
The campaign went like this; kiwis were advised to not have “relations” with anyone during the 7 week Rugby world cup. This was advertised with adverts of old women standing in full flannel PJs with a field of sheep. Why sheep you ask? Well, if you have been living under a rock, the world seems to have a ‘general stand-up routine’ connecting sheep with New Zealanders (Google that one). Can you imagine the uproar from New Zealanders? Their iconic sport had been tampered with and compared to a rehearsed joke about New Zealanders from around the world. Not only that but how is not having sex going to help and support the All Blacks? Completely off scope marketing people!
In a leaked email from The New Zealand Morning Herald, Telecoms Chief Exec Alan Gourdie, said: “It’s been a torrid 24 hours in the glare of public spotlight, as well as in that of our own team’s views and opinions. Nothing like a full and frank exchange of views! […] But even before the full campaign was properly kicked off, it’s pretty obvious to all that we misjudged public opinion. So you may or may not be surprised to hear that following the strong reaction yesterday, we won’t be proceeding with the ‘Abstain’ campaign”.
So, as a result, the campaign was pulled only 24 hours after release. The Marketing team had two weeks to come up with a multi-million marketing campaign very quickly. Lesson to be learnt here is pretty simple: know your audience.
Number five: Subway’s Halloween mishap
So, everyone knows Subway with their iconic slogan “Subway: Eat fresh”. Well, they made a mistake with their advert that circulated on national US television. The ad was released in October 2014, just before Halloween. The ad depicted women in “erotic” Halloween costumes which ended on the note, “whatever you’re staying fit for, start at Subway”. Well, this did not go well for the brand as it completely blew up on social media. Comments related the ad to sexism, anti-women’s empowerment. I understand Subway were trying to be current with their adverts to include trending events (Halloween) but this is not what happened. Needless to say, the ad was pulled with Subway looking red-faced.
Number four: Esurance billboard blooper
You may not have heard of this company but they learnt a fun lesson when it came to printing slogans on billboards. Esurance specialises in online insurance and was trying to increase awareness through print media. The Chicago-based board read “cover your home in a click”. Although, when you read the board from afar the “c” and the “l” formed another letter which changed the word to something a little more umm let’s say suggestive. As soon as this was brought to the companies’ attention the billboard came down. Expensive Lesson learnt.
Number three: Hell’s Pizza – Brilliant or brutal?
One company that has questionable advertising ethics is a New Zealand company called Hells Pizza. Personally, I love their adverts but they have made it into news media several times. Hell’s Pizza campaigns stream from their name “Hell” which makes their advertising campaigns a bit wicked.
Hell’s advertising is the meaning of synergy: all the key elements of marketing communication working together to achieve effective integrated marketing communication. Their communication speaks to the audience in a wicked way: from their website design, billboards, television adverts, and pizza boxes; right down to their pizza names. Although Hell has been in trouble a few times with their theme of choice their communication remains the same; devilish. So much so, customers look forward to seeing their next ‘hellish’ adverts. Brilliant or a little over the top?
Number two: Bud-light campaign
Coming in at number four is the famous American beverage company…BUD-Light. Back in 2015, Bud-light released a new campaign called “Up for whatever”. Part of the campaign was to create new labels for the bottles which read “for removing ‘no’ from your vocabulary for the night”. The creepy slogan had an instant backlash on Social Media. People stating that the slogan was inappropriate labelling of uh.. a predatory culture. What were the marketers thinking? I am sure it was meant to be fun but they definitely failed big time. Bud-light pulled the label and released an apology in a statement. Ekkkk.
Number one: Starbucks placement fail
Before an advert is used it is best to look at the environment the advert is on. Messages can be cut short if for example; mud flicks up on your advert featuring food from the wheel of the bus. Simple right? Well, apparently not for some companies. There have been numerous examples of ad placements gone wrong. As you’ll see by the example above: This is probably not what Starbucks were going for. But goes to show Marketers must look at the platform they are delivering the message on before it goes up. Thanks Starbucks for reminding us the importance of advert placement.
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Finally, I hope you have enjoyed the top six marketing bloopers. Do you know any? Feel free to share this to social with your comment.