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When marketing goes really wrong…

23 April 2021

When marketing goes really wrong…

Sometimes your ideas work great on paper, and execute even better. Sometimes they should have stayed on paper. Sometimes a great idea can go really wrong, and hurt your brand. Here are a few of our favourite marketing fails...

Not quite what you were going for… 

A lesson as to why you should never directly translate something comes from Pepsi. Their popular ‘Pepsi Brings you Back to Life’ slogan was used across english speaking countries. However, when they launched the campaign in China, they got a slightly more literal translation than they were aiming for. In Chinese, the slogan translated to ‘Pepsi Brings Your Ancestors Back from the Grave.’ Probably a bit of an exaggerated claim from them.

Context is key

Pepsi have had their fair share of controversial campaigns that have missed the mark completely. (Kendall Jenner and her peaceful can of Pepsi ring any bells?) However, this one took top spot for us. Burger King’s UK division tweeted ‘Women belong in the kitchen.’ on International Women’s Day… This tweet was meant to promote a campaign around a cooking scholarship for female employees, but nobody got past the first tweet and this caused a barrage of abuse. The tweets that came after this put the offensive tweet into perspective, ‘If they want to, of course. Yet only 20% of chefs are women. We’re on a mission to change the gender ratio.’ It might have been a good idea to add some context before tweeting out a sexist stereotype on IWD...

White is what?!

Nivea gave us a great example of when a campaign should have stayed in the drafts… In their Middle Eastern division, they posted a campaign for their new invisible on black and white clothing deodorant. The image showed the back of a woman with long, dark hair covering her white outfit. The slogan showed ‘White Is Purity.’ This was not taken well, for obvious reasons. This was interpreted as racially insensitive and white supremacist groups started to applaud Nivea for this campaign… Not what you want. 

Always do your research

In 2014, a twitter trend showcasing the stories of Domestic Abuse survivors. They were #whyIStayed and #whyILeft. Digiorno Pizza failed to do any research into what these hashtags were about and carelessly tweeted ‘#WhyIStayed You had pizza.’ This missed the mark for obvious reasons and they were promptly reminded as to why they shouldn’t have gotten involved in this hashtag. Maybe do your research next time...


Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll know that Marks & Spencer is suing Aldi over its Cuthbert The Caterpillar cake. They claimed that the products are too similar and that Aldi is infringing on their intellectual property. However, the plan backfired due to the incredible response from #TeamAldi, they used memes, created hashtags and made the whole thing into a huge joke. The stats don’t lie, and Carrie Rose, CEO of Rise At Seven posted these recently on her LinkedIn.

News Sentiment +8.5%📈
Purchase Consideration +6.08%📈
Social Engagement 460,629
News Sentiment -134.1%📉
Purchase Consideration -2.72%📉
Social Engagement 253,581

This shows exactly how much the humorous approach adopted by Aldi has resonated with consumers, and why M&S should consider adding a bit more humour to their brand if they want to keep up. 

We hope you’ve enjoyed taking a look at some of our favourite marketing fails, let us know what your favourite marketing fail has been. You can take a look at some more of our blogs here.