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The lessons to be had from epic marketing campaign fails

When it comes to marketing  and advertising, causing offence can damage your reputation past the point of recovery.
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Regardless of whether you have the right product, if you target the wrong audience your promotion could end up facing huge backlash and potentially ruin your brand’s image completely, falling onto a scrapheap of epic marketing campaign fails.

As a producer of content you might be full of ideas but if you don’t do enough market research or gain enough customer insight, your goals could be completely missed.

Thanks to the internet and social media, you can be sure that your marketing campaign fails won’t simply slip under the rug. But, even before the opinionated world of Twitter became popular, businesses still managed to fall short of the mark with some of their campaigns.

Here’s a few of the biggest marketing campaign fails we’ve seen across a range of leading industries over the last two decades, and the lessons marketers can learn from them.

Deodorant disaster

Nivea was forced to end it’s “White is Purity” campaign early after receiving backlash for being “discriminatory and racially insensitive”.

A spokesperson for Nivea attempted to pull it back by explaining that the advert was part of a larger campaign in the Middle East, that linked the colour black with strength and the colour white with purity.

But, as with all marketing campaign fails, the damage was already done in the Twitter-verse and a number of articles online, showed that the only true support the campaign received was from far-right wing political groups.

Lesson: Remember the different contexts that your campaign messages and slogans could be interpreted in; something that might not seem offensive to your marketing team could be taken in a completely different way by another group of people. If in doubt, err on the side of caution.    

Body-shaming on the daily commute

Back in 2015, Protein World’s “Are you beach body ready?” advert caused international uproar with an image of a woman in a bikini and a message that openly body-shamed women. 

The faux pas was noticed and London’s underground commuters fought back against the sexist campaign with punchy and witty one-liners and graffiti to deface the imagery.

New York’s subway passengers also joined in with the protest when Protein World gave the advert another go across the pond, despite its total failure with the UK audience. American and British audiences unite!

Lesson: Test and learn doesn’t work if you don’t learn anything from your first fail. The phrase “if at first you don’t succeed try, try and try again” won’t apply if you don’t change from marketing campaign fails that have already caused offence and been slated nationwide.

On the next page, find out which car brands fell into the trap of marketing campaign fails.

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As the champion of UK enterprise for 20 years, Real Business is the most-read SME website dedicated to high-growth businesses and entrepreneurs. Through daily news, unique insight and invaluable guides we are an essential resource for thriving businesses.

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