8 Biggest Marketing Blunders made by companies

Marketing blunders made by companies

“Marketing is an art of selling things”(Until the Blunders walk-in).
We know how hard marketers try to make their strategies work, but sometimes they end up ruining it. Such blunders are not only hilarious but also utterly ridiculous. Sometimes, marketers can miss the mark further giving an invitation to marketing blunders.

Any step that a brand takes to change its marketing strategy can hit back hard and shatter the brand image.

Such a step was taken by Coca-Cola in the year 1985. Coca-Cola launched new coke, which left a very sour taste while consuming it. Well, the company launched coke with a new ‘sweeter and smoother’ taste apparently that no one liked. The customers didn’t like this new flavour because they prefer the old strong taste of coke. Therefore, the company had to bring back its old classic taste.

We will now discuss some marketing strategies and campaigns that made a disastrous history.

8 Biggest Marketing Blunders made by companies

Tropicana: A ‘Redesign’ that was not well designed

Have you heard of branding through packaging strategy in marketing? It does not always give the best results.

Tropicana New packaging marketing blunder

Tropicana is the brand owned by PepsiCo, and it sells fruit juices worldwide. The brand decided to change its packaging, and it did not work well for them.

The customers did not like the new packaging, and due to this, their sales dropped by 20%. The reason behind this failure was that the loyal customers did not connect much with the new packaging. Furthermore, some customers were mistaken that the orange-shaped new cap was to insert a straw, similar to the print on the previous packaging. Some found the packaging cheap and ugly, and felt that it did not suit the premium brand. To sum up, it was a big goof up by the company.

The saddest part is to promote the new packaging the brand invested 35 million in their advertising campaign. Because of this marketing blunder, Tropicana had to bear a loss of 30 million dollars.

Sometimes it’s better to stick with the old. Tropicana learned its lesson and returned to their old packaging.

Fiat:  The creepy love letters

The marketers try to think out of the box to create strategies but sometimes they come with ideas that they need to throw in a box (of garbage).

The automobile manufacturer company Fiat decided to use the most cringe marketing campaign of all time. The company decided to target the female population by sending them love letters. To make it worse, they decided to keep this campaign anonymous and send 50,000 love letters to Spanish women across the country. Receiving love letters someone and without any identity made the women do one thing, and that is fear of having a stalker. Let us look at what one of the letter says-

“I only need to be with you for a couple of minutes, and even if it doesn’t work out, I promise you won’t forget our little experience.”

When the company sent the second love letter, they put up a signature, a brochure, and an invitation to the closest Fiat store. After this revelation, many women decided to sue Fiat for their “not so romantic” marketing campaign.

Dove: Body Positive Campaign that left a negative impact

There is another packaging strategy that went wrong for the brand and is counted in Marketing Blunders. Dove launched its body wash range that comes in various shapes to resemble the different body types of female bodies. The effort was to support their “Real Beauty” campaign by supporting different kinds of beauty.

Dove Packaging showing different size of body- example of Marketing Blunder

But the campaign faced backlash on Twitter on the fact that it was ridiculous to make such comparisons of body shapes with bottles of body wash. Many tweeted that it made women more self-conscious of their bodies, and it exploited the insecurities of women to sell its product. The impact of this campaign was the exact opposite of what it was supposed to be. The positive messages backfired and became a marketing blunder.

Sony: Don’t be a racist

You can understand why their ad was a Marketing Blunder. Look at this billboard image. This ad ran in 2006 for PlayStation Portable.

Sony Racist Campaign acted as marketing blunder

This billboard ad displays how white is overpowering the black, and under this, ‘white is coming’ is mentioned. Sony surely did not intend the ad campaign to be racist, but it did come off like that! The company said that it was to show the contrast between two colors available for their PlayStation Portable. But instead of color contradiction, it represents how one race overpowers the other where black is submissive. Due to the outrage, Sony took down this advertisement.

Electrolux: This ad sucks!

Electrolux is a company that sells home appliances. The company was planning to launch its vacuum cleaner range in the western market. But the tagline they chose to be witty was way too ahead of time.

Nothing sucks, like an Electrolux. 

Electrolux Marketing Blunder

Using such a term in an ad campaign was considered culturally insensitive. Also, the word “suck’ has a secondary meaning which is, to fail or to be unpleasant. So it was amusing how the company degraded its own brand in the advertisement.

If the ad runs today, it might work for a modern audience but back then it was counted in Marketing Blunders.

Audi: The ridiculous advertisement

Sometimes the marketers don’t realize what’s funny and what’s not. So, marketers end up creating something which, instead of making people laugh and incline towards their brand, makes them furious and create outrage.

In China, Audi released an ad that was meant to be humorous but ended up being unflattering and ridiculous.

This ad showcases a bride and groom at the altar, and they are getting married.The groom’s mother intervenes and checks the bride’s facial features by pulling her nose, cheeks, opening her jaw to check her teeth. After this inspection, she gives her son approval to marry the bride, but in the last scene, the mother looks at the bride’s chest with a look of disapproval, and that’s how it ends.

In the end, a voiceover appears that says, “An important decision must be made carefully.”

The depiction of the ad was objectifying women and comparing their value with a vehicle. The audience called it disgusting, ridiculous, and what not. The company took down the ad and apologized for their Marketing Blunder.

The New York Times: “We sent it by mistake”

There are times when you send the wrong text to the wrong people. We all have such experiences, but do you expect the newspaper giant The New York Times to commit such a mistake.

In December 2011, some subscribers decided to cancel their subscription from the New York Times. The newspaper sent them an email mentioning attractive deals to give, in order to give this decision a second thought and renew their subscriptions.

The mail was supposed to be sent to a list of 300 subscribers so that they stick with the New York Times subscription. But, the employees mistakenly sent the to all the 8 million subscribers, including the subscribers who were loyal to the newspaper. The subscribers thought that it was spam, but when they got to know about the real deal, they felt disappointed because they were not offered such deals. It took many years to recover the damages this Marketing Blunder caused to The New York Times.

Heinz Ketchup: Ketchup only for adults

So this can be the most embarrassing situation for a company. A customer named Daniel Korell scanned a QR code given on the Heinz ketchup bottle. The Marketing Blunder was that the QR code directed him to a pornography website.

Heinz QR Code Blunder

The QR code was for some promotional purpose where it intended to direct browsers to a website where the customers can make their own label for a bottle of Heinz tomato ketchup. But, the promotion expired, further expiring the URL registration as Heinz did not renew it. So, the domain name was taken over by an opportunistic porn website.

Daniel Korell found it rather funny and shared it on Heinz’s Facebook page, saying, “Your ketchup is probably not for minors.” In response, Heinz apologized and also sent a free ketchup bottle for Daniel Korell to thank him for informing them about this.

Final Thoughts

We all make mistakes, but when the companies make such errors, they bear severe losses or become a topic of all the banter and trolls.

The bottom line, before you publish, post, or print, take a close look at your message. Review your copy and take a hard look at your campaign in terms of current social context. Oh, and always get an educated second opinion before publishing or going live with any campaign!

Tell us in the comments which Marketing Blunder startled you the most?

Manvee Dugar
I've pursued my education in management and business studies. I believe in smart work rather than hard work so I opted for management studies. I chose marketing as part of my studies because I've been captivated by the creative aspects of it. I'm always willing to help people and cherish cooperativeness very much. I am fascinated by creativeness in every aspect and strive to modify every single thing in a unique way. Being a determined person, I prioritise work no matter what. I have a very joyful personality and believe to live in the moment. I believe in Karma and I think all the good deeds come back at you. I love to utilise my free time in watching knowledgeable movies and series to gain out of the box perspectives.