Marketing Fails

Posted by Parthiv Shah on Sep 14, 2021 8:00:00 AM

Parthiv Shah

The world of marketing can be a creative place where you can play with new or unique ideas to advertise a product or service. The downside is that some companies and marketing teams can get a little…carried away. Having a good reality check once in a while can be a very good thing to prevent some of the worst faux pas and marketing mistakes. I have some great examples to share with you on this!

2017 – Kendall Jenner and Pepsi

The 2017 “Live for Now” ad by Pepsi, featuring Kendall Jenner, was meant to capture a sense of unity and understanding. A key scene of note saw Jenner walking through a protesting crowd and handing a can of Pepsi to a police officer. Some of the imagery used caused a lot of backlash. The ad was harshly criticized for being insensitive and trivializing the BLM movement and police brutality that has been an ongoing issue in the US.

Dove Body Positive Packaging

We’ve all seen the body positivity ads that Dove has been producing for the last 10 years. Most of these ads focus on the beauty of people with all different skin tones and body shapes. However, Dove made a blunder in 2017 when they came out with a range of their body wash bottles in shapes to represent the body contours of women. The ad was quickly pulled and was critiqued for simplifying the way society views women’s bodies as well as causing a lot of insecurities. Overall, this definitely missed the mark.

Airbnb: Floating world

Airbnb came out with an email in August 2017, showing a water-themed house sitting on the water. Harmless right? The email came out just after Hurricane Harvey hit Houston, TX.

Local businesses can make mistakes too: Ink Coffee

Ever heard of Ink Coffee? Same here. Ink Coffee is a coffee shop in Denver, Colorado, that made headlines all over the US when the owner put “Happily gentrifying the neighbourhood since 2014” on a sign outside of the store. Although the owner had attempted to be humorous with this comment, the sign was widely criticized for insensitivity as the gentrification of neighbourhoods also leads to the displacement of low-income and marginalized residents of the community.


What has been your overall takeaway from all of these major marketing blunders? I hope it’s timing and sensitivity when approaching topics involving politically charged events and themes. 2017 was a particularly bad year for companies, large and small, not thoroughly assessing how their ad’s message may be interpreted. For marketing content that touches on gender relations, gender issues, sexuality, race, nationality, current political events, and even class struggles on a local scale – research and correct timing are your best friends.


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Topics: Marketing education

 parthiv shah


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