We’ve mentioned it before and we’ll say it again: P.T. Barnum is often associated with the saying, “There’s no such thing as bad publicity.” It’s an adage that continues to ring true today, confound, and find marketing minds clinging to it in hopes of generating more free press for their brand.
Yet, not all publicity is beneficial.
Sure, sometimes a company devises a powerful marketing strategy specifically designed to inspire media attention which, in turn, usually leads to more views.
And in today’s modern social media crazed world, aren’t more views the primary focus of so much marketing efforts? After all, if you get people to notice your company and brand (whether the publicity is positive or negative), isn’t that what matters most?
In fact, with today’s socially sensitive culture in many parts of the world, the wrong strategy, marketing, or message can actually cripple some aspects of brand awareness.
Let’s highlight five (that’s 5) of 2018’s biggest corporate blunders
Whether these failures of marketing genius will lead to lost revenue is to be seen, but the end results certainly weren’t anywhere in the ballpark of what these company’s executives and leadership had in mind.
2018 Marketing Blunder #1: Russian Domino’s
How cool would it be if customers suddenly had tattoos of your company logo somewhere on their body (hopefully in a place that’s easily visible to the general public much of the year)? Pretty awesome, huh?
What if you came up with the hair-brained idea of offering free products for 100 years to anyone who took on this challenge? Maybe you figured only a handful of people would actually do it, but then you’d underestimate the fortitude of Russian fans of Domino’s Pizza.
A franchise in the country made an offer of 100 free pizzas per year for 100 years to customers who tattooed the brand’s logo on their skin.
It backfired. Bigly.
Within just a few days they had so many people seeking to claim their lifetime pizzas that the franchise had to quickly add restrictions (such as size, location, etc.) then shut the promotion down.
Now what are those former customers going to do with these domino pieces forever etched into their skin? Play a game?
2018 Marketing Blunder #2: Heineken’s ‘Lighter Is Better’ Bungle
In March, advertisers for this beer brand decided it would be just fine to have an African-American bartender slide a nice, sweating, cool bottle of its signature brand beer down the bar past three African-American customers to a lighter skinned woman.
Ah, if that doesn’t cry racism, the slogan that went along with it (lighter is better) didn’t do the company any favors.
Some were quick to point out that too often companies are using these sensitivities deliberately to draw views, but ultimately it often stings the bottom line for a while.
2018 Marketing Blunder #3: H&M Monkey Business
This marketing blunder dates all the way back to January when H&M decided to showcase a new kid’s sweatshirt. “Coolest Monkey in the Jungle” was the slogan.
Seems harmless, right?
Not when you understand that ‘monkey’ is a derogatory term sometimes used to refer to African-Americans. Now, realize that this particular sweatshirt was shown being worn by an African-American child and it quickly becomes apparent the company was in serious hot-water.
Fast-forward 11 months and the fervor was all but gone … but then again with articles like this … they rarely ever go away completely.
2018 Marketing Blunder #4: Baby Daddy
The term ‘Baby Daddy’ is an American creation that refers to unmarried couples. The terminology isn’t the most affectionate, but it has become more common in certain vernacular.
Now, if you were a major retailer and the only Father’s Day card for sale in any of your franchise across the country that featured a Black couple was one with ‘Baby Daddy’ front and center, would that strike the wrong chord?
And that’s exactly what happened. Target has been getting hit over and over these past few years, so bad publicity isn’t going to help … and this blunder certainly didn’t.
2018 Marketing Blunder #5: Dolce & Gabbana
Just this past November, the iconic fashion company got itself into hot water … twice. First, it used what it felt was a clever ad depicting a clueless Chinese consumer trying to eat Italian food with chopsticks.
While intended to be sexually suggestive, it was derided for its cultural insensitivity and lack of refinement.
Then, an Instagram exchange between founder Stefano Gabbana and model Michaela Tranova was released where Gabbana refers to China in some derogatory ways. A boycott call was sent out on a Chinese social media platform and forced the company to cancel its Shanghai runway show.
That blunder cost the company millions for just that show … and we’ll see the full impact when the fourth-quarter earnings come in next year.
These simple examples remind us that not all marketing efforts will provide positive results. We need to be careful not to offend or overpromise.
May 2019 be the year your marketing efforts gain traction and catapult your company to a brand new level of awesomeness!