Brand Marketers Beware – Discover the foreboding tales of this century’s most monstrous marketing ploys
Today, we are swimming in a sea of second-hand embarrassment as we explore the times brands REALLY could have used an editor. Not like a misplaced comma editor, but someone with a fully-functioning brain to look at an overarching brand strategy and say, “Not today, Satan.”
Now, everyone has a bad day and we understand you can’t always knock it out of the park when you stretch your creative genius. But, these mega brands demonstrate exactly why it pays to get a second opinion before launching potentially hazardous marketing materials during these trying (and somewhat sensitive) times.
Remember, once you free the branding beast in today’s screenshot culture, you better be prepared to deal with whichever creature creation comes to collect.
Here are some brands who failed to double check the connotations behind the message & paid dearly in terms of consumer loyalty (and a yikes-level of embarrassment)
Kraft’s Send Noods Campaign
Oh boy, did the name of this one ever get us. Unfortunately (apparently?), that means we have a terrible sense of humour. During the pandemic, Kraft created a campaign around sending loved one “noods” while we were all trapped at home. In addition to perpetuating the M-rated hashtag online, they used semi-blurred out images of Mac n’ Cheese as their design collateral to further emphasize the suggestive nature of the CTA.
Talk about a wet noodle. Not only did the worldwide web of moms come for Kraft in response to their almost-clever marketing ploy, but even QAnon got in on the boiling pot, accusing the company of their lack of insensitivity surrounding the rampancy of child sex trafficking.
Unfortunately, Kraft failed to think of the fact that a HUGE portion of their target audience is families and younger kids. So, while this campaign may have crushed with a more mature (or less mature really, ha) group, they ended up just looking like creeps #SendHelp.
Adidas barely “survives” a Boston marathon marketing mishap
Wow, this one really caused us to do a double take because it’s SO BAD. Like, worst horror movie you’ve ever seen (cough, The Witch) bad. But, this didn’t happen in an onscreen, otherworldly reality. It happened for real and had dire consequences for the brand.
Following the globally mourned 2013 tragedy of the Boston Marathon, for some un-godly reason, Adidas decided to congratulate the 2017 finishers with an email with the subject line “Congrats, you survived the Boston Marathon!”.
Unfortunately for the brand, many of the racers shared snapshots online to the uproar of thousands who shared our disbelief at the absolute shenanigans inherent in the shocking subject line. Like us, one of the finishers suggested that Adidas, “Talk to whoever is doing your email marketing.” Others called the outreach tone deaf and much worse. To the poor soul who let this “well-wishing” slip through the cognitive cracks, RIP.
And, then we died at Pepsi’s Live for Now Moments
The Black Lives Matter conversations, sparked by the disturbing murder of George Floyd, presented incredible opportunities to unify audiences. People – especially Millennials – got behind this important cause, showing up in big and small ways. Nowhere was the rage against the system more apparent than on social media, as even the most disparate of online users came out to either celebrate or eviscerate brands and individuals who shared their thoughts about systemic racism.
Enter Pepsi and, more specifically, Ms. Kendall Jenner who decided to re-enact monumental moments of international protest whilst replacing weapons with cans of Pepsi. Complete with some real pithy hashtags such as #livefornow, this campaign with ripe with self-righteous slime.
Considering the Black Lives Matter campaigns were catalyzed by gruesome deaths, the messaging definitely could have used some finessing… or deleting. “Live boldly?” online users prodded. How are we to live boldly when police officers keep shooting us. From the suggestion that sipping Pepsi can save or minorities through to the use of the epitome of white privilege to emulate the brand’s stand on racism, poor Kendall was like a really svelte pinata at a Halloween party – smashed to bits and emptied of all her sweet, yet extremely misguided innards.
The best part of the epic failure of the Pepsi campaign is that just before this abysmal pop culture bomb went off, the brand bragged about ditching their external marketing team in favour of an internal one. The president celebrated cost and time savings and said what a splendid idea this massive cut of corporate corners would be.
The narrator: it was not a splendid idea and what it lacked in strategy, it made up for in sarcastic ammunition and shields of sadness.
Why do big brands launch with such spooky (stupid) strategies?
Because we’re on big Halloween vibes, let’s use a horror analogy to demonstrate how these monstrous marketing mayhems happen. Picture Dr. Victor Frankenstein in his laboratory with the levers and the lightning and all that. In his eccentric mind, raising someone from the dead seems like the vibe. But, don’t you think if he had paused to get a second opinion he may have realized that creating and then abandoning (rude) a giant corpse-like gentleman was, in fact, not the vibe?
We’re pretty sure that’s the case in Frankenstein’s creation story and we’re quite certain that’s also how these brand beware tales came to be. When you get into a think tank full of people who think alike, you don’t have the necessary checks and balances to ward off the evil spirits of scary taglines and subject matter. Instead, what you get is a Boogey Man with the lightning speed legs of digital word of mouth.
Avoid catastrophe by running your cooky marketing concoctions by your good friends at CR Creative. We are brave enough to warn you when your bright idea may throw more than just a shadow of doubt over your brand. So, let’s chat and save you the time, money, and firsthand embarrassment associated with a well-intentioned marketing campaign #NoShade.
Lest we forget: the road to corporate doomsday is paved with good intentions and bad publicity.