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Marketing Gone Bad


Marketing is a crucial aspect of any business, but sometimes, even the most well-intentioned marketing campaigns can go wrong. Whether it's a poorly timed advertisement or a misguided social media post, marketing gone bad can have serious consequences for a brand's reputation and bottom line. In this article, we'll explore some examples of marketing gone bad and what we can learn from them.

Pepsi's Kendall Jenner Ad


In 2017, Pepsi released an advertisement featuring Kendall Jenner that quickly went viral for all the wrong reasons. The ad showed Jenner leaving a photoshoot to join a protest, where she handed a can of Pepsi to a police officer, seemingly solving all the protesters' problems. The ad was widely criticized for being tone-deaf and trivializing the Black Lives Matter movement. Pepsi eventually pulled the ad and issued an apology, but the damage had already been done.

Lesson learned: Brands need to be mindful of the social and political climate when creating marketing campaigns. Attempting to capitalize on social movements or serious issues without addressing them in a meaningful way can backfire and do more harm than good.

United Airlines' Passenger Removal


In 2017, United Airlines came under fire after a video surfaced of a passenger being forcibly removed from a flight. The incident sparked outrage and boycotts, and United's response was criticized for being insensitive and defensive. The airline's CEO initially blamed the passenger for being "disruptive and belligerent," but later issued a more sincere apology.

Lesson learned: Brands need to take responsibility for their mistakes and show empathy towards their customers. In the age of social media, a company's response to a crisis can be just as important as the crisis itself.

H&M's "Coolest Monkey in the Jungle" Hoodie


In 2018, H&M released an advertisement featuring a black child wearing a hoodie with the phrase "coolest monkey in the jungle." The ad was widely criticized for being racist and insensitive, and H&M was forced to apologize and remove the advertisement.

Lesson learned: Brands need to be aware of the potential impact of their marketing campaigns on different communities. Insensitivity to race, gender, or other marginalized groups can lead to backlash and damage a brand's reputation.

McDonald's #McDstories Hashtag


In 2012, McDonald's launched a hashtag campaign called #McDstories, encouraging customers to share their positive experiences with the brand. However, the campaign quickly backfired when customers began using the hashtag to share negative stories and complaints about the fast food chain.

Lesson learned: Brands need to be prepared for the potential consequences of user-generated content campaigns. Encouraging customers to share their experiences can lead to negative feedback, and brands need to be able to handle that feedback effectively.

Reebok's "Cheat on Your Girlfriend, Not on Your Workout" Ad


In 2012, Reebok released an ad with the tagline "Cheat on your girlfriend, not on your workout." The ad was widely criticized for being sexist and promoting infidelity, and Reebok was forced to issue an apology.

Lesson learned: Brands need to be aware of the potential impact of their marketing campaigns on different communities. Insensitivity to gender or other marginalized groups can lead to backlash and damage a brand's reputation.

In conclusion, marketing gone bad can have serious consequences for a brand's reputation and bottom line. Brands need to be mindful of the potential impact of their marketing campaigns on different communities and take responsibility for their mistakes. In the age of social media, a company's response to a crisis can be just as important as the crisis itself. By learning from these examples and taking a more thoughtful approach to marketing, brands can avoid the pitfalls of marketing gone bad.


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