For better or for worse, marketing can be extremely tricky at times. Sometimes what sounds great in the boardroom may turn out to be absolutely horrible upon release. When planning out a campaign, factors such as cultural background and current social issues need to be taken into account.
Failing to do so can lead to disaster as can be seen from the examples below. Here, we take a look at some of the most cringeworthy and at times downright hilarious marketing fails in history.
1. H&M’s Dirty Laundry
Back in 2018, H&M introduced their line of new children’s clothing with an ad that featured two young boys.
Sounds innocent enough right? Wrong.
The now much panned ad featured both boys (one black and one white) wearing hoodies with two different wordings. On the sweater worn by the white boy the words “Survival expert” were printed on. Meanwhile, the black child’s sweater said, “Coolest monkey in the jungle”.
In a rather tone-deaf attempt to market their products, H&M apparently forgot to take into account the cultural sensitivities of their target audience.
The uproar was immediate with many going to Twitter to complain, faster than horses in the Breeders Cup race. They attacked the clothing company for their apparent lack of sensitivity. As a result, H&M was forced to take down their advert and issue an apology to their customers.
When planning out a marketing or ad campaign, it is crucial that you understand and respect your audience. As we can see in the case of H&M, they obviously forgot to take any of that into account.
2. Dolce & Gabbana Loves China
Image from telegraph.co.uk
Another example of tone-deaf advertising can be seen in D&G’s ironically named DGLovesChina campaign. Featuring Chinese model Zuo Ye, the D&G ad saw the model trying and failing to eat traditional Italian cuisine with a pair of chopsticks. All of this was coupled with condescending voice over work that seemed to sneer at the audience.
Wow, when you put that on paper it really does sound more than a little insulting.
The ensuing fury from this rather poorly thought-out ad would land D&G in hot water. From having their products pulled off shelves in China to being dropped by major online and brick-and-mortar outlets, D&G were universally thrashed all across China.
Further compounding the problem was a series of leaked screenshots that saw co-founder Stefano Gabbana unloading a variety of racist insults onto his detractors. While Stefano Gabbana claimed that his Instagram had been hacked, his pleas fell on deaf ears.
D&G were forced to cancel their largest fashion show which was due to be held in China as a result of the severe backlash. Alongside this, protests were held at a variety of outlets including their flagship store in Milan.
3. Kendall Jenner gives you a Pepsi
Image from bbc.co.uk
In another example of an ad gone awry, Pepsi and Kendall Jenner collaborated to bring what some have called the “worst ad ever” to life.
Back in 2017, the Black Lives Matter movement was at its peak with people protesting police brutality. The hilariously misguided featured “rebel” Kendall Jenner bringing together protesters and police by offering them a drink of Pepsi.
Pepsi claimed that there was supposed to represent unity and a coming together of people. But many saw through it and cried out that Pepsi was merely attempting to profit of the misery of others.
The unintentionally hilarious ad was poorly received by many and spawned its own host of memes poking fun at a large corporation for attempting to capitalize of a popular movement.
Following the backlash, Pepsi pulled the advert and issued one of the most awkward apologies ever.
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