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30 Biggest Marketing Fails

Subway’s $5 Footlong

In 2007, Subway released a $5 footlong campaign complete with a catchy jingle. The campaign went on to last for a decade, which is a long time for any sort of special. People did complain that the subs weren’t all exactly 12”, though. Then, in 2016, the chain raised the price to $6 to cover inflation. The public wasn’t happy, and now we’ve lost our beloved $5 sandwich forever.

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McDonald’s #McDStories

Nobody enjoys McDonald's. We only face the consequences of eating under the golden arches because it’s cheap and quick. Asking people to tell their stories with McDonald’s greasy food did not end well. We’re not sure what the company expected.

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Levi’s “Hotness Comes in All Shapes and Sizes” Campaign

While we agree that “hotness” does come in all shapes and sizes, we’re not sure Levi’s knows what that means. It doesn’t take a genius to recognize the only body type presented here. Levi’s wanted to profit on inclusivity, but instead, they turned a lot of people away.

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Kia’s Hamsters

Nobody is really sure why Kia is so obsessed with hamsters. Sure, real hamsters are cute, but when you make them humanoid, it gets weird. When you slap female hamsters into skin-tight leather outfits in an attempt to make them sexy, it makes everybody uncomfortable.

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Bud Light Date Rape

For some reason, big companies think rape is okay. For example, Bud Light knew that people don’t get to sleep with whoever they want, so they encouraged these rejects to get someone drunk and then sleep with them. Sound terrible? We think so too. 

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Bloomingdale’s Date-Rape Ad

In the same decade as the #MeToo movement, Bloomingdale thought it would be a great idea to encourage you to spike your friend’s drink. Spiked drinks are synonymous with rapes. Statistically, most rapes happen by people you already know. We don’t know what Bloomingdale was thinking, but we don’t want to be friends with them.

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Hitler Ice Cream in India

This marketing mistake was not made by a huge company, but it’s still baffling. Hitler Ice Cream is a thing in India. It’s not a coincidental name, either. It also features that Hitler’s face on the packaging. We’re not sure why they did this.

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IHOb

In summer 2018, IHOP announced they’d change their name to “IHOb” but did not immediately announce what the “b” stood for. They wanted to build suspense. The internet was full of guesses, but nobody hit the mark. When IHOP announced that the “b” stood for “Burgers” the world was outraged. Luckily, this illogical change was just a marketing spoof. We have “IHOP” again!

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Starbucks’ #Racetogther

Ever heard the sentence, “Don’t talk to me till I’ve had my coffee”? Apparently, Starbucks hadn’t. In the midst of America’s racial tensions, the coffee company wanted to show their support of all people by encouraging customers and employees to have deep, world-changing conversations at the register. Unsurprisingly, nobody wanted to have a deep conversation with a line behind them. The campaign didn’t even last a full week.

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IHOP “Flat But has a great personality”

Body shaming is generally accepted as unacceptable in today’s society. IHOP didn’t get the memo, though, and continued to perpetuate the stereotype that women with small breasts are physically unattractive. People all around were not happy.

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Nivea’s “White is Purity”

Even if you’re advertising for deodorant, claiming “White is purity” is never a good idea. The only people who liked it were white supremacy groups, and those people were very outspoken about their newfound liking for Nivea.

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Huggies “Have Dad’s Put Huggies to the Test”

This campaign did a great job of insulting dads everywhere. It implied that dads did nothing when raising children, including changing diapers. “Putting dads to the test” was their way of saying that their diapers could withstand children going without being changed for far too long, all thanks to their dad’s incompetence. Dads everywhere were not happy. 

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Heinz QR Code Scandal

On the back of many products, you’ll find a funky little square called a QR Code that you can scan with your smartphone. The scanned code then takes you to the website of whoever owns that QR code. Heinz once let their QR codes expire. The codes were then bought by a hardcore porn site. The customers who discovered this were not happy.

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Kenneth Cole Cairo Tweet

When protesters took to the streets in Cairo, Egypt, Kenneth Cole decided it was prime time to make more money. They tweeted a joking claim that people were taking to the streets because of their new spring collection. We’re not professionals, but it doesn’t seem like the start of a revolution is the best time to market your brand.

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Under Armour’s Iwo Jima T-shirt

During the 5-week battle of Iwo Jima in 1945, almost 30,000 people died with another 20,000 people injured. It was a bloody battle that has been honored in America with the iconic Marine Corps War Memorial. Under Armour’s basketball shirt was both unpatriotic and disrespectful of human life and sacrifice. The company faced an online backlash.

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Seoul Secret’s Blackface

You should know that blackface is not a good thing. You should also know that you shouldn’t have to be white to be successful. A Korean Beauty company proved they didn’t know either of these things with a single video. They released an ad featuring both blackface and the tagline “You just need to be white to win.” Well, that’s just not true.

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Adidas Boston Marathon Email

In 2013, tragedy struck when a bomber attacked the Boston Marathon. In a poor choice of words after the 2017 marathon, Adidas sent out an email to the finishers saying, “Congrats, you survived the Boston Marathon!” This would work for most marathons, but was way too much, way too soon for Boston.

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Burger King Google Home Ad

Tens of millions of Americans own smart speakers, devices that respond to audio cues for things like quick web searches, music, and weather updates. Burger King knew that. In an ad talking about the greatness of their Whoppers, they asked Google Home for the ingredients of the Whopper. This then prompted Google Homes to read the results found on Wikipedia. It was a great idea... until people hacked Wikipedia to say that Whoppers were “Cancer-causing” and contained cyanide.

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Sony’s Racist PSP Ad

In 2006, Sony tried to market their white PlayStation Portable (PSP), but in doing so, they added their name to the growing list of racist ad makers. However, Sony’s ad manages to look more purposefully racist than most companies. After all, it’s hard not to when you include the tagline “White is coming,” alongside an image as aggressive as this one.

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Dove’s Racist Ad

This viral breakdown of a Facebook ad is a great example of the internet taking things out of context. The full ad shows people of all types in a friendly way. This specific set of images, though, makes Dove look fairly racist. As a result of the out-of-context pictures, the company suffered some serious backlash.

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DiGiorno Stayed for Pizza

On Twitter, the hashtag #WhyIStayed was adopted by people who were sharing their stories of domestic abuse. DiGorno saw the hashtag was trending, and without getting context, tweeted “#WhyIStayed You had pizza.” They quickly realized their mistake and apologized profusely.

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Pepsi and Kendall Jenner

Pepsi slipped up with Kendall Jenner. In 2017, in the midst of the Black Lives Matter movement, Pepsi produced a commercial in which Jenner gives police and protesters Pepsi to create peace. The ad was said to “trivialize the movement.” Twitter took to the commercial, posting pictures of MLK, Hitler, and Pearl Harbor alongside the caption: “If only they had Pepsi.”

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Pepsi slipped up with Kylie Jenner. In 2017, in the midst of the Black Lives Matter movement, Pepsi produced a commercial in which Jenner gives police and protesters Pepsi to create peace. The ad was said to “trivialize the movement.” Twitter took to the commercial, posting pictures of MLK, Hitler, and Pearl Harbor alongside the caption: “If only they had Pepsi.”

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Disney Japan’s “Unbirthday” Tweet

Alice in Wonderland has produced some fun and quirky stuff. A few years back, Disney Japan tweeted out an Alice themed “Happy Unbirthday” tweet with the caption “Congrats on a trifling day.” Normally, this would be okay Alice-themed material. Their mistake? It was the anniversary of the Nagasaki bombings.

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Dove’s Body Positive Packaging

Dove has always been good at encouraging people to be comfortable in their own skin. Because of this longstanding relationship with their customers, people didn’t come down on Dove too harshly when they produced bottles designed to look like women of all shapes and sizes. That said, nobody wants to look like any of these shampoo bottles.

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NYPD and Their #myNYPD Fail

The New York City police department is very active on Twitter. Hoping to combat all of the public mistakes police officers have made in recent years, they created the hashtag #myNYPD with the intention of encouraging people to share pictures of officers being nice, helpful members of the community. Instead, people shared pictures of the NYPD’s police brutality. It wasn’t quite the response the department was looking for. 

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LifeLock and Todd Davis’s Social Security Number

If you’re worried about your social security number getting stolen, LifeLock is not the company for you. It’s designed to protect your security number. Todd Davis, the founder of the company, was so confident in LifeLock that he put his social security number on billboards, trucks, and their website. Naturally, it was stolen. 13 times.

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2007 Cartoon Network Bomb Scare

In one of the funniest marketing scares of the all-time, Boston proved just how out of the loop they are. Cartoon Network, in what they called a guerrilla marketing campaign, placed a bunch of LED pictures of a cartoon character in 10 cities. Nine cities knew what the light-ups were. Boston, however, did not. They thought the characters were bombs. They shut down roads for half a day, sent out bomb squads, and basically proved they would not know how to handle a real bomb threat.

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I Take A Sheet in the Pool

Any attention is good attention, right? Ehhhh, maybe. Not really. We don’t want to be compared to… sheet. We’re not going to spot anybody else from doing it, though.

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Airbnb Floating World Ad

We understand advertising campaigns are planned months in advance. It’s still not a great idea to send out ads promoting Airbnb’s fancy water-home during hurricane season. Airbnb’s luck ran out when this ad was sent out during Hurricane Harvey, the storm that wrecked parts of Texas.

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Audi Chinese Wedding

When you buy a car, you need to check it out and make sure it’s up to standards. Unless you’re buying an Audi. Because you can trust Audis, you can spend that time inspecting the nose, ears, and teeth of your son’s bride-to-be. After all, women are measured by their physical attributes... We’re not sure what Audi was trying to say here, but people everywhere were not fans.

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