Memorable Marketing Fails of 2017 That Make Us Cringe

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As January approaches, it’s time to reflect on the year we just had: the ups, the downs, the moments we’d rather forget. In terms of social justice, 2017 might go down in history as the year of infamy. From the Harvey Weinstein-shaped can of worms to the political gong show that is Donald Trump’s first year in the Oval Office, 2017 hasn’t been a banner year for social justice, compassion, or equality. You might say that these top marketing fails of the year fit right in.

Kendell Jenner Unites the World With Pepsi

The Ad: As Kendall Jenner poses for the camera on the threshold of some swanky establishment, a group of multi-cultural protestors carrying generic signs marches by. What exactly they’re protesting, we don’t know. But that doesn’t stop Kendall from being moved enough to remove her blonde wig and join the crowd. Then, with a fresh can of Pepsi, she pushes through the crowd and hands a riot police officer a drink. He takes a sip of the peace offering and suddenly all is well with the world and Kendall saves the day.

Why it Failed: The fact that a company tries to latch onto current political or social trends isn’t something new. We don’t necessarily fault Kylie Jenner and Pepsi for tapping into the socially divided atmosphere of the times. However, when they use protesting for the sake of protesting without taking an actual stand on anything, it undermines the millions of protestors who took to the streets this year to march for Black Lives Matter and Women’s March on Washington, to name a few. To add insult to injury, the fact that a rich, beautiful socialite was chosen as the hand to extend the olive branch, or can of Pepsi, trivializes the whole matter. If only those peaceful protestors who were shot at by trigger-happy police offers knew about the old Pepsi-can trick! Talk about insensitive.

Dove’s Weird Packaging

The Ad: This year, Dove released a limited edition line of body wash bottles that came in all different shapes and sizes to promote “real beauty,” a campaign slogan that has done amazingly well for more than a decade.

Why it Failed: The first thought that comes to mind is, that it’s just plain silly. The second thought that comes to mind is that stores must have had a real problem trying to figure out how to stock these randomly-shaped bottles next to each other. What we’re left with is a campaign that seriously misses the mark. We understand what it was trying to do, but maybe it was trying too hard. Yes, Dove, we all know by now what you have to say about women with different-shaped bodies. But do you really expect round women to buy round bottles and tall, lanky women to buy tall, lanky bottles? It’s not the shape of your bottles we’ve ever had a problem with, so why go through so much effort to promote body-wash bottle diversity? As we said, it’s just plain silliness.

McDonald’s Exploits Child Bereavement

The Ad: The ad starts with a boy looking at his dead father’s things. He and his mother take a walk and talk about what dad was like. The boy starts to realize he’s nothing like his father. That is until they end up at a McDonald’s and his mum comments on how he liked the Fish Filet just like his father and—awww, isn’t it sweet?—he even got the same glob of tartar sauce on his chin as his father.

Why it Failed: Striking an emotional chord with the audience is not a bad thing. In fact, that’s what a great marketing strategy is all about. However, there’s a difference between moving the audience and exploiting child bereavement, which is exactly what McDonald’s did. Did it really have to take it that far? Why would the fast food chain think that a child mourning over his deceased parent is a great marketing strategy?

Donald Trump Since Day One

The Ad: Say what you want about Donald Trump, but one thing we have to admit is that he is one helluva self-marketing genius. The millions of Americans who did vote for him are probably asking themselves how he managed to convince them (his approval ratings are the lowest in American history), but the truth of the matter is, he knew exactly what to say, who to say it to, and when to say it. He marketed himself as a working-class hero with a billionaire’s salary, and many Americans ate it up.

Why it Failed: No story of marketing fails is complete without him. Since his presidency began, the GOP has accomplished nothing he set out to do and pissed everyone off in the process. There aren’t many things he hasn’t been criticized for. From his dealings with Russia to his blatant sexism and racism, to his constant battle with the “fake” news, to his obvious lack of transparency, compassion, and sensitivity or understanding of politics, he has proved time and time again to simply be unfit for the challenge. When it comes to marketing fails, Donald Trump is the champion.

Don’t Join the Marketing Fails

2017 was a great, big, shining example of what NOT to do. But despite these cringe-worthy marketing fails, there’s always a chance that something can go horribly wrong. Are you looking to give your digital marketing a real boost next year? Start 2018 on the right foot with a marketing strategy that focuses on high-quality search engine optimization. Check out Awkward Media’s previous work or contact us to learn more about our exceptional SEO services.

Published by Genevieve Morrison