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We’ve all made mistakes in our life. It happens.

Even big businesses have been found making terrible mistakes within years.

Sometimes their marketing campaign just doesn’t work. But when it happens on a large scale, the reputation of the brand may be risked.

Always remember that, on these rare events, your brand’s advertisement doesn’t just fail; it blows up in your face.

In this case study, we will discuss the examples of the marketing campaign that was an absolute disaster and you may learn from them and not make the same mistakes.

#1 Pepsi’s Kendall Jenner Protest Ad

Pepsi was forced to remove its highly controversial new global ad campaign featuring ‘Kendall Jenner’ only days after release following public criticism for its video content.

The image of Jenner approaching the police clearly referenced the iconic photograph of Ieshia Evans, a black woman who stood tall in the face of heavily armored riot police during a Black Lives Matter protest following the fatal shooting of Alton Sterling by police in 2016.

The company faced a backlash for a video that co-opted the imagery of protest movements to sell soda.

“Pepsi was trying to project a global message of unity, peace and understanding. Clearly, we missed the mark and apologize. We did not intend to make light of any serious issue. We are pulling the content and halting any further rollout.”- The company said in a statement.

Here are some examples:

#2 Dove’s Body-positive Packaging

From more than decades, Dove has seen enormous success with its Real Beauty campaign. Dove took a rare misstep with ‘Real Beauty Bottles’ packaging.

The ad created by agency Ogilvy London, “Real Beauty Bottles” is a limited-edition run of six different body wash bottles to illustrate the power of body diversity–ranging from curvy to tall, short to slim.

This effort was all about redefining popular beauty standards, Dove made a controversial move to reshape its shampoo bottles to reflect different body types.

This promotion was comparing women’s figures to largely shapeless, abstract soap bottles eventually sent the wrong message and was met with both joking and sincere concern on platforms like Twitter.

#3 Sony – white vs. black PSP ad

In celebration of the release of their new ceramic white PSP, Sony used giant billboards with a number of different images all focused around a central theme: a “white PSP” avatar subduing a “black PSP” avatar, portraying the new white PSP model’s dominance over the older black PSP.

But the image portraying- A white model with white hair is grabbing a black model by the face. The white figure looks angry and stubborn. The black one looks submissive; her body all but fades into the background of the ad itself. “PlayStation Portable,” the text says. “White is coming.”

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The billboard image speedily sparked heated debate across social media and gaming blogs as to whether the ad provoked imagery of inter-racial fighting and was racially offensive.

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Sony wasn’t handled the negative PR coming their way. Rather they threw up the surrender flag and tried to defend themselves.

#4 McDonald’s Trashes the President

In March, a shocking tweet from McDonald’s came out, trashing President Trump: “You are actually a disgusting excuse of a President and we would love to have Barack Obama back, also you have tiny hands.”

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The company said it wasn’t McDonald’s itself but hackers who published the tweet. The company took the tweet down quickly, but the episode showed how susceptible corporate accounts can be.

“Based on our investigation, we have determined that our Twitter account was hacked by an external source. We took swift action to secure it, and we apologize this tweet was sent through our corporate McDonald’s account,” McDonald’s spokeswoman Terri Hickey said in a statement to CNNTech.

#5 Uber Backs the Wrong Horse

In January, Trump’s immigration ban was in the limelight, and taxi drivers in New York assembled together for a strike, to protest the law, asking all drivers, as well as those from Uber and Lyft, to join the protest.

Uber, seemingly trying to take advantage of the situation, suspended “surge pricing” and issued a tweet aimed at promoting its service.

In contrast, its competitor, Lyft, sent out a message of unity and announced a $1 million donation to the ACLU.

Thousands of users posted to the hashtag #DeleteUber viral in response, and Lyft saw a massive boost in users. Also, for the first time ever, Lyft’s downloads surpassed Uber’s on January 29, as a direct result of the #DeleteUber campaign.

Key Takeaways

So what did we learn from these awkward marketing fails?

  • Remember that politics is a dangerous game
  • Double-check everything
  • Invest in better security
  • You shouldn’t joke about racism or beauty
  • Make sure you should support your community
  • If you make a mistake, admit to it


These examples teach us that always put a lot of thought into your marketing campaigns.

Every business wants to go viral when it comes to marketing & promotion, but make sure you are going viral for the right reason…not because of your failures.

DSIM Blog is created to help you to know all aspects of Digital Marketing ranging from basics of Digital Marketing to Advance Level Topics, Read our posts and feel free to reach our team for any queries.

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