So we all know that marketing campaigns don’t always work out like we want them to. Admittedly, there have been a few times where a few of my coworkers and I have gotten really excited about a campaign only to see it fail miserably.
Don’t worry. Everything you do as a marketer is experimentation. You are constantly researching, hypothesizing, testing, and retesting to develop better campaigns that convert your audiences.
If you’re still feeling bad, let’s look at a few different epic marketing fails to make you feel better.
1. Belvedere Vodka
Topping off the list is Belvedere Vodka. Now you may think you have made some bad ads or campaigns, but at least you weren’t the person who came up with this little gem.
Apparently someone in the Belvedere headquarters, or their agency partner (if they use one), thought it would be a great idea to develop this ad and directly reference rape. This is completely indefensible.
To their credit, someone at the company had the common sense to pull this ad quickly. The brand also donated money to RAINN, an anti-sexual violence group. Unfortunately, a few weeks later, the company was sued by the actress in the picture for using her likeness without permission.
We can only hope these advertisers were drunk, very drunk.
2. McDonalds vs. Peta
One of the best fails in the history of marketing on Twitter (and there are many) is the hashtag #McDstories from McDonalds. Someone in the company thought it would be a wonderful idea to give naysayers a huge opportunity for critique.
Now, remember, McDonalds has a massive social following, global brand awareness, and a ton of controversy over product quality. This means that the hashtag was way too general to prevent the subsequent firestorm.
Now, this was only compounded by the fact that PETA then proceeded to become involved. And of course, McDonalds can’t help but allow them to hijack the conversation and become embroiled in a meaningless Twitter debate with their obvious arch nemesis.
One can only hope that this social media manager learned their lesson.
3. Home Depot
On social media, there are a lot of things that can go wrong and hurt your brand. However, few things can hurt a brand as much as being called racist. Home Depot can tell you exactly how bad things can get after they tweet this unseemly photo.
So, most importantly, this was even included as part of their immensely popular College Gameday sponsorship. Unfortunately for Home Depot, the program is so popular across the country it received a lot of coverage.
The Twittersphere exploded, causing the company to delete the tweet, apologize for 2 days, and fire their social media agency.
4. Susan G. Komen
Susan G. Komen has a great brand reputation and a huge social media following. I mean, look at how much they have single handedly instilled in the color pink. But that doesn’t mean they are fail proof.
A few years ago, the non-profit organization pulled funding from Planned Parenthood because they were under investigation. Regardless of the politics of the issue, some people were confused about this considering Susan G. Koman is an organization that supports women’s health, similar to Planned Parenthood – who provides breast cancer screening.
People got even angrier when they began deleting Facebook comments about the incident instead of addressing them. Susan G. Komen adjusted their policy to target only organizations under criminal investigation going forward.
But the fact they so quickly withdrew support for an organization closely aligned to their own, did not sit well with their target market and they took a major hit for a time.
5. Amy’s Bakery
Finally, there is the infamous Amy’s Baking Company in Scottsdale, Arizona. This is a company that will forever remain as a lesson of the worst kind of marketing and brand awareness.
This story begins with Gordon Ramsay’s show “Kitchen Nightmares.” After a number of terrible business practices came to light during the show, the episode prompted a wave of negative feedback on social media. But of course, the restaurant’s two owners couldn’t issue a public apology and work to rectify the situation.
That’s too easy.
Instead, they began what happens to be one of the most psychotic and very public rants in the history of Facebook. It also happens to be one of my favorites. The couple tried defending their restaurant against very angry, somewhat amused Reddit and Yelp users with expletives and all caps. Eventually they even invoked God.
However, this isn’t the end of this bizarre tale. Only last week one of the owners was featured in the news for assaulting a customer.
So, don’t worry. Yes, mistakes are made in marketing and your campaigns may not always come out the way you plan for them to. But that doesn’t mean you have failed as hard as these examples. Now you just have a better understanding of how your campaigns need to be built and what your audience responds to.