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Top 5 Spooky Marketing Fails

With Halloween right around the corner, we thought it’d be a fitting time to share a few spooky marketing fails. Good marketing is important; social media and the internet makes mistakes hard to forget. These fails went viral for negative reasons which leaves a negative mark on the company.

An Unfortunate Headline

In 2011, Sheet Energy Strips released an ad campaign featuring Pitbull. The ad was meant to promote strips of a caffeine sheet you dissolve in your mouth for fast-acting energy, but this headline might have you believe otherwise. All press is not always good press; many companies want the exposure without realizing the wrong kind can create a bad reputation.

An Underwhelming Reception

Gap’s logo rebrand caused an uproar with customers in 2010. The original logo, pictured on the left, was replaced by the one on the right. The internal team at Gap had been experiencing brand fatigue; they felt their logo had been around too long and needed a change. Apparently customers did not feel the same way - the new logo was not received well by the public. It had been launched without any build up, excitement, or warning so when it launched, the new logo caused unfamiliarity and unease in customers who’d grown to trust the brand and its previous logo of over 20 years. The new logo lasted for less than a week after going over so poorly at launch.

The Wrong Kind of Edgy

Who would have thought that a holiday ad could be scary too? In 2015, Bloomingdale released an ad with the extremely insensitive headline: “Spike your best friend’s eggnog when they’re not looking.” The advertisement rightfully sparked outrage amongst viewers on social media. Naturally, this did not bode well for Bloomingdales – no marketing campaign that alludes to sexual assault should.

A Switch in the Script

This Starbucks ad introducing their blonde roasted espresso got a lot of backlash. It was confusing and wordy, and the message contradicted itself as well as Starbucks’ historic position. For 43 years Starbucks has been saying espresso needs to be intense; in introducing the blonde espresso, they were now saying the opposite. By blatantly going back on their original messaging - which they even reminded readers of in the ad - Starbucks confused readers, weakened their brand identity, and reduced trust in one fell swoop.

A Swing and a Miss

As part of a body positive bottle campaign, Dove released soap bottles intended to resemble different body types. Many found this extremely offensive and were upset with Dove, who’s known to promote body positivity and a celebratory self-image. Many women feel social media already goes too far in objectifying women; a company now portraying actual objects as women was not open for discussion. The bottle campaign was received as insensitive and tone deaf.

So what’s the takeaway from all of these fails?

  1. When creating a marketing campaign, it’s important to have a team who can look at your campaign through an inclusive lens.

  2. Conduct audience research to better predict how your target audience will react.

  3. Don’t fall victim to the common refrain “All press is good press.” You don’t want to go viral for the wrong reason.

With Wheels Up on your side, we can ensure you don’t end up on the next marketing fails list. Ready to start planning your next marketing campaign? Connect with us.


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