How to ruin your brand in seconds… using marketing</BR></BR>

How to ruin your brand in seconds… using marketing

Ever since we were kids we’ve been taught that making mistakes is normal and we could learn from them. Like it or not snafus, boo-boos and errors are going to happen, but the thing is, not all mistakes are comparable. It’s not the same talking about a personal mistake and one made by a brand, where things can get more interesting… very quickly.

Successful and respected brands sometimes try to outsmart competitors in a whole variety of creative ways but some of those attempts end up being a total failure. Ask Pepsi or Dove if you don’t believe me, they turned into professionals in ruining marketing campaigns in 2017.  Here at Grypp we wouldn’t like that to happen to your company (or ours) and that’s why we’ve picked 5 marketing campaigns that went wrong during 2017 and 2018, so we could learn, hand-in-hand, what NOT to do to damage your brand. Open your eyes, read and watch carefully… unless you want to be added to the list, of course!

PS: Before jumping into the list allow me to show you an actual well-done marketing campaign which I discovered thanks to Ewa, our creative director! Feel free to compare it to the rest…

(PPS: This is an official comment added by Ewa’s Editing Bot (EEB): “Not tru dat! Please, let them know that I’m definitely NOT showing naked people to our employees during the office hours. I only show them educational podcasts and inspirational quotes from fully dressed individuals!”)

1. Live for Now – Pepsi

Without any doubt, this is one of the most mocked campaigns in 2017. The main intention of the ad was to depict Pepsi as a cultural unifying force, having Kendall Jenner quell protest tensions by offering a police officer a can of the popular soda. However, many were quick to point out that Pepsi’s ad appropriated imagery from social justice movements like Black Lives Matter and trivialized demonstrations focused on social justice causes just for the sake of selling more. This whole mess ended up with Pepsi deleting the video from all social media platforms and apologizing to the audience.

2. Celebrate the many shapes and sizes of beauty – Dove

Dove designed 6 differently shaped bottles of shower gel for their UK campaign with the aim to “evoke the shapes, sizes, curves and edges that combine to make every woman their own limited edition”. What went wrong? Their message was mistaken, as women felt the shapes would only be a tool for shoppers to judge themselves against what others looked like, increasing a sense of discomfort rather than acceptance. And not to mention the fact of comparing women’s figures to soap bottles… *gulp*

3. The coolest monkey in the jungle – H&M

In January 2018 users noticed that H&M UK website was selling a green kid’s hoodie stamped with the quote “Coolest Monkey in the Jungle”. Up to this point, everything seems normal except for the fact that the retailer used a black child to model the sweatshirt, a choice that Twitter users pointed to as racist, inappropriate and offensive. Worse still is the fact that H&M used white children to model the two other versions of the sweatshirt (one said “Mangrove Jungle Survival Expert” and the other was patterned with different jungle animals). If there’s something we can learn from this mistake is that brands should avoid generating images that could be read as having a racist message.


4. Dove (again…)

Definitely, Dove wasn’t lucky with their marketing campaigns in 2017, as something similar to the H&M photography happened to the Unilever brand. The company posted a picture on their official Facebook page showing a black woman “changing race” as she took off a shirt similar to her skin tone. What was their purpose? An attempt to promote their body wash. This generated huge backlash as most people on social media couldn’t understand how a marketing department could allow this to happen without noticing the actual message they were sending.

5. Mc Donald’s fillet-o-fish

Emotions play an important role when it comes to marketing, but it’s crucial to find the perfect balance. And that’s actually what Mc Donald’s didn’t do in this advert. The spot shows a young boy talking with his mother about his dead father, it seems that they don’t share much in common except for just one thing: their love for filet-o-fish sandwiches. The ad was highly criticized on social media for exploiting child bereavement solely to push a brand name and Mc Donald’s didn’t have any other option but to get the ad off-air.


Conclusion: when creating a marketing campaign, you have to think carefully how you want your message to be delivered as the smallest mistake can cause serious damage to your brand, and all of those efforts made to build a trusted reputation can break within seconds. The culture of the internet grows every day and things go viral really fast. Social media platforms have turned into the vehicle for people to express their opinions and reach brands more easily. If you are generating the wrong message, people are going to respond really quickly. And they will have no mercy.

Ewa’s Editing Bot: Hey Laura (and you, Dear Readers)! Did you hear about those campaigns that went wrong and even Nostradamus couldn’t predict it? Sometimes a truly unhappy coincidence is to blame. Like in this famous Hong Kong case:

6. Hong Kong will take your breath away… literally

In 2003, in various British magazines, one could find advertisements encouraging tourists to visit Hong Kong. The city was promoted with a neat slogan: “Hong Kong will take your breath away.”

I bet the creators of this slogan never dreamt of being so deadly accurate… At the time when the ads appeared to thousands of Brits, Asia was already plagued by the SARS and one of the main outbreaks was in Hong Kong. As you know, SARS stands for Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome that manifests itself, among other things, in … breathing problems.

7. Sexy coffins?!

Nothing is going to sell coffins better than an attractive naked lady, right? WRONG!! Or maybe I’m wrong because Lindner, one of the biggest producers of coffins in Europe has a contrary opinion. They are quite famous not only because of their products but also because of their exclusive calendars. Every year their devoted clients (at least those that are still breathing) can feast their eyes with something I like to call a “Dead Pirelli”.


You know, usual stuff, naked ladies presenting their body parts on the naked coffins. Every year a different style. For example in 2012 ladies were ‘wearing’ painted uniforms, related not only to Euro 2012 championship, but also to twelve countries, to which Lindner exports its coffins. Okay, I know that instead of reading, you’re googling this company already, but still, I think that is not how good marketing should look like!

8. Why take diet pills when you can enjoy AIDS…

And last but not least, don’t call your product AIDS I mean, AYDS…


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