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Horrifying Marketing Mistakes to Avoid

Scary marketing mistakes you don’t want to repeat

False Activism

Millennials value authenticity, and this also applies to the media they consume. When the Pepsi/Kendall Jenner ad came out in 2017, it was immediately lambasted for its fake activism. That year saw many protests across the world: the women’s march, antifa counter-protests, and the Me Too movement among others. Considering this context, Pepsi’s thinly-veiled consumerism isn’t hard to miss – this is an advertisement after all. The narrative of the ad sees Jenner leave a photoshoot to join an ambiguous protest, handing a police officer a Pepsi which magically makes everything ok.

Key takeaway: don’t pretend to be on the right side of history without actually taking a stance.

Letting the internet choose

The internet has been a huge opportunity for marketers and advertisers. Sometimes, when trying to harness its power, things can go spectacularly wrong. That’s what Mountain Dew found out when they tried to run a contest to name their new flavour. They were trying to harness the wide-reaching power of the internet, but they left themselves open to manipulation. Notorious for their trolling antics, 4Chan’s /b/ board is widely credited for this marketing campaign hijacking. Instead of innocent, sensible suggestions, the leading options were: Gushing Granny, Diabeetus, and Hitler Did Nothing Wrong. Mountain Dew removed all the offensive options and ended the campaign.

Fashionably wrong

Fashion designer Tom Ford is known for provocative, bold, and vulgar ads. Often picturing women’s bodies in undeniable objectification, the fashion brand has been accused of sexism multiple times over the years. It’s pretty unacceptable these days to try selling cologne to men by photographing it between a woman’s breasts. Fellow fashion megabrand Dolce & Gabbana has gone down the same road with their 2007 visual campaign that does look remarkably like the moment before a sexual assault. Sociologists might say that the fashion industry tries to portray society’s darkest desires in their quest to remain relevant, but glamourising sexual assault and objectification cannot be justified.

Misunderstanding the platform

A huge part of getting your marketing right is understanding the platform you’re using. A good marketer will carefully select one or many platforms, and tailor the message to each. Misunderstanding the platform is truly a recipe for disaster, as you can see from this example.

Woody Harrelson’s PR team booked him an AMA (Ask Me Anything) on Reddit – essentially, this is an opportunity for fans to ask the celebrity questions about anything, and the celebrity has the opportunity to interact with fans and also promote their latest release. However, Woody Harrelson and/or his team got it tragically wrong. They were too focused on promoting the 2011 movie Rampart to the exclusion of everything else, turning the AMA into a frustrating mess. Any general questions directed to the actor were met with a prompt to focus on the film. In the end, the PR exercise was a dramatic failure, causing fans to lose faith in Woody Harrelson – some even vowed never to watch the movie he was promoting.

Not Listening to your audience

Over the past few years beauty YouTubers have been on the rise, and beauty brands have been made aware of the need to provide tones to suit all skin colours. Today, the market provides options beyond pale tones – providing for dark skin and other tones that were not previously considered standard. In 2017, Rihanna’s Fenty Beauty shook the beauty industry with 40 shades of foundation. After Rihanna’s success, many brands were criticised for producing a variety of light shades and a very limited selection of dark shades. Brands like Tarte, YSL, and Maybelline were found lacking in skin tones. YouTuber Nyma Tang keeps these brands accountable with her series ‘The Darkest Shade’ where she explores the diversity in make up. The lesson to be learned here is to listen to your customers and act quickly – diversity should be a key value to beauty brands.

Bonus: a terrifying marketing campaign that was a hit

In the summer of 2007, a mysterious video clip emerged and creeped throughout the internet. The shaky, dark, difficult to understand snippet left viewers scared and confused. The recording started in a rooftop party in New York, when the lights go out and a ball of fire falls from the sky. Instead of giving answers, it left us with only questions. And that was the key to its virality – the rough camcorder footage was shared like wildfire as viewers searched for answers. This was the hype marketing campaign for the movie Cloverfield – creating a sense of unease that left viewers wanting more.

Getting your marketing right is essential. With so many ways to reach your target demographic, it’s no wonder that even the big brands get it wrong sometimes. If you want your business to get noticed by the right people, speak to us at Norr and Echo. We can create a tailored marketing plan that gets the results you need.