Marketing was never easy, but in the current era, it’s more challenging than ever. Consumers have become more sophisticated and more sensitive at the same time. For this reason, even a simple marketing campaign can cause plenty of problems. The internet only made things more complicated, as the exposure that comes with it is giant. Lots of eyes are following everything at all times, so you’ve got to be careful about what you post. To help you stay out of trouble, we thought it would be a good idea to look at some of the worst digital marketing fails of all time.
There are lots of examples when companies regretted sending out a tweet or posting a video. Some of them destroyed company images, lowered stock prices, and even caused public outrages. Let’s look at these and talk about why and how they happened. You’ll get some takeaways and learn how to use pay-per-click to help grow your business instead of ruining it.
As we already mentioned, nothing gets unnoticed on the internet, and this campaign is proof of that. In 2018, H&M’s UK website put out a picture of a green kid’s hoodie that reads Coolest Monkey in The Jungle. And that all sounds cute until you realize that they used a black child as the model.
The internet quickly noticed, the picture went viral, and people blamed the company for casual racism. The problem was that they used white kids for promoting other similar hoodies.
Of course, H&M quickly took the picture off the website, but it was too late. Lots of people said they’ll boycott the brand. On top of that, they lost the Weeknd as one of their major celebrity endorsers. This all could’ve been prevented if only the team responsible for photography and ad campaigns was a bit more careful.
Even a clothing giant like H&M can make mistakes with their marketing.
What started as a great B2B marketing idea finished in disaster for Burger King. The idea was for the campaign to run on smart devices. And when activated, it would read a list of burger ingredients posted on Wikipedia. It’s a great collaboration idea as we all know that a marketing plan that focuses on other businesses can do wonders for a company.
However, hackers didn’t take long to alter the Wikipedia post and include some ingredients like cyanide in the list. Obviously, this was a significant problem, and the company pulled the campaign.
Although unfortunate, we all can learn that you can never neglect the power of trolls or even the envy of rival companies when doing something innovative.
Hashtags are a powerful tool, but they also can be dangerous if you’re not careful with them. And the New York Police Department social media team learned that the hard way.
They decided to use the hashtag #myNYPD to encourage people to take pictures with police officers and share them on social media. However, it didn’t go the way they hoped.
The internet quickly caught on the opportunity to mock the police. People posted pictures of police brutality with the hashtag underneath. So, what was supposed to be a positive campaign, turned into the exact opposite.
Your own hashtags can cut you like a knife if you’re not careful with them.
Videos are one of the most often used tools for digital marketing today. It’s enough saying that if you want to create an effective social media marketing plan, you can’t do without them. And the next example we want to talk about is truly one of the worst digital marketing fails of all time because it exploits the 9/11 tragedy.
A Texas-based mattress company called Miracle Mattress posted a video in which a woman buys a twin price mattress to remember 9/11. The idea was terrible, and it was perceived as such. In fact, it was so bad that they had to close the store down.
When creating a picture or video ad, it’s never a good idea to exploit a tragedy. And that should be clear to all the marketers out there.
Advertisements come under fire more often these days because they run on YouTube and Facebook. In 2017, Pepsi made an ad with the reality star and model Kendall Jenner that was quite controversial. On the surface, it looks entirely typical. However, the underlying message was off, and you’ll see why.
The ad starts with a standoff between police and Black Lives Matter protesters. Then, Kendall comes and makes everything okay by offering a Pepsi can to a police officer. We don’t have to explain why there was a lot of criticism going towards it and why it was even ridiculed on talk shows.
Pepsi pulled it off, and later that year, the president of the company resigned. So, don’t tap into serious social issues if you’re not selling a product that really can help with solving them. You’ll only come out as opportunist and insensitive. And that isn’t something you want.
Dove also managed to upset a lot of people with a single Facebook post. For many years, they had a campaign called Real Beauty, and in it, they showed real women. However, in 2017, they posted a picture that made them look like they’re promoting racism.
It was a four-part picture. Three parts of it were showing a black girl taking off her shirt, but in the last one, she was white. No matter how you look at it, it only can come off as racist.
The company claimed that the idea was to show the diversity of beauty. However, no one besides them saw it that way. As a marketer, you need to think about the implications of an image, and you can’t neglect the obvious.
There are many ways of showing diversity without making one of the worst digital marketing fails of all time.
Sears filed for bankruptcy in 2018, and since then, they have been closing more and more stores. Although there are many reasons why they failed, two of them are very relevant to marketing.
Firstly, they cut off their marketing budget completely to prevent losses. This was a terrible idea, but they didn’t stop there. They also created a program called Shop Your Way. In it, customers who are subscribed get points for shopping that they can use as coupons. However, customers don’t want to be tied down, and if you understand how people make purchase decisions, you know this.
It would be a lot better idea if they just offered no strings attached coupons. Their way of doing it came off as possessive, and because of that, they managed to be one of the examples of the worst digital marketing fails of all time.
Meta description: Find out what are the 7 worst digital marketing fails of all time. We explain everything from the idea to how they impacted the companies.
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