When Marketing Campaigns Go Bad

When Marketing Campaigns Go Bad

Creating and executing a strong and engaging marketing campaign can take a huge amount of brainstorming, thought and manpower. Even the biggest players in business can get it horribly wrong at times. We’ve put together a short list of marketing campaigns that didn’t quite work out the way they were perhaps intended.

Lush (2018)

The cosmetics brand found themselves on the receiving end of quite the backlash last year when they inexplicably launched a campaign highlighting malpractice among undercover police workers. Their widely criticised “Spy Cops” campaign was executed poorly and led to Lush releasing a statement distancing themselves from being anti-police after installing shop window displays featuring posters split between an image if a man in a police uniform and another in plain civilian clothing alongside the words “Paid to Lie”.

When Marketing Campaigns Go Bad
Lush Cosmetics’ controversial “Spy Cops” campaign

Dove (2017)

The toiletries brand produced a campaign for “real beauty” back in 2017 to promote its bodywash range and came up with the concept of six different “body-shaped” bottles to celebrate body diversity. Samples were sent to social media influencers and high value customers but the campaign attracted a high level of criticism as the campaign was labelled offensive and patronising which resulted in the products never reaching store shelves.

When Marketing Campaigns Go Bad
Dove’s body-shaped bodywash bottles

McDonalds (2017)

2017 again and this time the fast-food giant got themselves in hot water with a TV advertising campaign featuring a young boy asking his mother about his deceased father. As the mother speaks she tells him that one of the main things they shared a fondness for was the McDonalds “Filet-O-Fish” sandwich. This quickly put Macca’s on the hook for what was seen as exploiting grief and bereavement to sell products.

When Marketing Campaigns Go Bad
McDonalds Filet-O-Fish TV ad

NatWest Bank (2019)

This campaign was the inspiration for writing this article. In short, the UK based bank produced a campaign in partnership with Stylist magazine to launch an online community that would talk straight about money, minus the jargon, for women.

With the main focus being a pledge from the bank to “change the way banks talk to women”, it wasn’t long before critics rightly dismissed the campaign as sexist, patronising and inaccurate.

When Marketing Campaigns Go Bad
NatWest Bank

Walkers (2017)

The UK based snack company implemented a social media campaign back in 2017 that encouraged customers to submit a selfie for a chance to win tickets to a sporting event.

Unfortunately some people submitted highly inappropriate images of dictators and criminals. The brand’s failure to audit and approve submitted imagery before publishing them created a massive backlash and PR disaster for the brand.

When Marketing Campaigns Go Bad
Walker’s Snack Foods

So what can we learn from these marketing fails?

While its sometimes great to step out of your comfort zone when it comes to planning and executing a campaign, it pays to seriously consider all possible ramifications of your messaging.

Storytelling is an important aspect of a marketing strategy but you need to be tasteful and respectful with how you use a story to market your products and services.

We are all different people with varied opinions and while some might not see a problem with what could be deemed as a patronising campaign directed specifically at women, any marketer will look for relevant and current hot topics to form an idea around. The critical thing is producing a campaign that stays within the forefront of your intended audience’s mind for positive reasons rather than negative ones.

With that last sentence in mind, we’ve highlighted McDonalds in this article for a negative campaign, but that’s not to say they don’t produce great ones too.

Have a read of this fantastic article focusing on their newly opened and smallest store in the world aimed at one very special customer – the wild bee!