In this modern age of computing and technology, brands are trying harder than ever to improve their online presence. A brand’s campaign going “viral” can often be the difference between success or failure. To try and make the campaign go viral advertisers and brands need to be unique, creative and sometimes daring. But marketers be warned… the internet never forgets.
If you accidentally post an offensive tweet, picture or just a nasty response, the internet will be up in arms against you. We really do mean it – the internet never forgets.
The 5 Worst Marketing Campaigns Ever
In this article, we will be exploring 5 of the worst marketing campaigns ever. These are not accidents or offensive tweets by someone in the company, these are full (not so well) thought out ad campaigns. Most of these are from large multi-national companies and have had months of planning and probably hundreds of people working on them. These kinds of campaigns could have been easily avoided if advertisers learned to do more research and connect with their audience.
Bloomingdale’s: Spike your best friend’s eggnog when they’re not looking
Bloomingdale is a chain of American department stores that offer luxury items such as designer clothes and brands. Although they were not as well known outside of America they definitely are now after this embarrassing blunder. In winter 2015 Bloomingdale launched its Christmas campaign with the slogan “Spike your best friend’s eggnog when they’re not looking”.
Yes, you didn’t read that wrong it actually says “spike your best friend’s eggnog”. We’re not exactly sure who’s ‘great’ idea this was or how it got through the development phase, but as you can imagine people weren’t happy. The idea of a campaign which endorsed alcohol-fuelled date rape was a complete PR disaster for the company. Not only did it offend a lot of viewers but it also caused a social media frenzy.
Bloomingdale was quick to apologise on Twitter with a 140 character apology and hoped everyone would forget. However, the internet never forgets. Thousands of people Tweeted their opinions and criticisms with even some calling to boycott their stores over it. Hopefully, Bloomingdale will remember this disaster when they’re planning their next winter campaign so it doesn’t happen again.
Protein World: Are you beach body ready?
Protein World, a supplement manufacturer, was fairly unknown before this marketing tragedy. This epic marketing fail actually happened twice in the space of a few months. The company was trying to promote its protein shakes on the claim that they help reduce fat and make you healthier. They decided on a large poster featuring swimwear model Renee Somerfield with the tagline “Are you beach body ready?”. Initially, the advert was launched around London featuring on billboards and smaller sized advertising spaces in the London underground.
Within a few days of launching the campaign, people noticed the advert and began to start a social storm of Tweets slamming the ad. The main problem was that commuters saw the advert as offensive to women and their bodies. Other people on social media also slammed the advert saying it was clearly body shaming and giving a false image of bodies. Many people started to vandalise the posters, leaving their own messages for other commuters saying they shouldn’t avoid their products.
After the outrage from the original campaign, tragedy struck again when Protein World decided to launch the exact same campaign in New York. Surprisingly, the campaign got the exact same reaction as it did in London. This advert could have easily had a different effect on commuters if the tag line was different. But the damage has already been done and the internet will make sure nobody forgets.
Surprisingly the sales for Protein World actually increased after the incident. This makes us question if this is worthy of the list of the worst marketing campaigns ever. Eventually decided to put it in because even though it did increase sales, it’s just distasteful and hurt the company’s image. We think there are better ways to increase company sales without offending everyone.
Heinz: QR Code accidentally directs to a porn site
Imagine sitting down to enjoy your chips with some ketchup when you notice Heinz are running a promotional competition. Wanting to know more, Daniel Korell decided to scan the QR code on his phone. For those who don’t know what a QR code is, it’s a big barcode that when scanned directs you to a certain website. In this case, Daniel was expecting to be direct to the Heinz website, but instead, he found himself directed to an adult entertainment website.
After informing Heinz of the incident on Facebook they replied offering Daniel a personalised ketchup bottle as compensation (like you do). After looking at the details of the slip up it seems Heinz forgot to renew the domain name which hosted the competition. Instead, a German adult entertainment company managed to get their (grubby) hands on it and redirect it to one of their websites. The competition ran between 2012 and 2014 but for some reason, Heinz thought that after 2014 everyone would have used the bottles and thrown them away. To their surprise, this was not the case.
This PR blunder could have been easily avoided if Heinz committed more to their campaigns and registered the domains for longer. The most embarrassing thing is that a .com domain name normally costs around £7 for a year. For a multi-national company, it really is pennies.
On their Facebook page, Heinz said they have investigated the incident and will make sure this will never happen again. Which is good to know as when we think of chips we normally think of Heinz and not another five letter word.
Amazon’s “The Man In The High Castle:” Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan imagery in the New York City subways
Back in November 2015 Amazon was looking to promote its new exclusive television show “The Man in the High Castle”. The TV show depicts an alternative reality in which Nazi Germany won World War II. Obviously, there were a lot of different ways Amazon could have advertised this. However, they decided on full out intensive campaign to spark interest.
Overnight the NYC subways were transformed with Nazi and Imperial Japanese paraphernalia with actors in full SS uniforms. The adverts almost entirely covered the seats, walls and ceiling on the New York subway. This was clearly a big mistake as NYC has the highest percentage of Jewish people outside of Israel.
The Mayor of New York, Bill de Blasio criticised the campaign calling it “Irresponsible and offensive to World War II Veterans”. Shortly after the campaign gained a lot of local media attention the ads from the subway were removed. Although Amazon did get a lot of attention from its campaign it’s probably not the right attention they wanted leaving them embarrassed.
Bud Light: #UpForWhatever campaign
Bud Light has somehow been promoting their slogan “Up For Whatever” for around two years. But it’s only recently the American beer company has been under criticism for the campaign. Each bottle has a different tagline on it such as “The perfect beer for busting out all two of your dance moves”. The company received criticism for the tagline “The perfect beer for removing no from your vocabulary for the night”. People interpreted the tagline as relating to alcoholic induced date rape and that if you drink enough Bud light you won’t say no to anything. Obviously, we don’t think this is the impression Bud Light was going for.
A user on the popular website Reddit brought this to the internets attention when he noticed it on his bottle. Some users responded with witty comments such as “Remember, no always means no, especially if the question is do you want a Bud Light?”. Overall users were not impressed with the tagline and questioned how it managed to get featured at all. Another user commented, “I think I understand what they were going for… but this is so far from the mark”.
Bud Light could have avoided this by learning from Bloomingdale’s mistake. Or was it the other way round, which came first the Bud or the Eggnog? The similarity of the mistake between the two campaigns makes it seem like they had the same intern working for them.
Are these the 5 worst marketing campaigns ever? One could argue that since we are discussing them they’ve actually worked. But at what cost to the brand’s image? There’s a famous quote ‘There’s no such thing as bad publicity’. But thanks to the widespread use of social media we’d have to disagree with this. If your company makes a mistake then you’re going to have hoards of angry social media users venting their fury at your company – and it’ll spread like wildfire.
We hope that after reading our top 5 worst marketing campaigns you’ve learned some important lessons. A small mistake can easily turn into something big, so proper planning is always key. The internet can also be a relentless force and can point out even the most innocent of mistakes. Let other brands make the mistakes for you so you don’t have to. To read more of our informative articles be sure to check out the other posts on our blog below.