High-profile mistakes all marketing professionals fear
Marketing is a fast-moving and high-pressure industry, and what seems like a good idea in the confines of an office may not translate so well in the real world. Unfortunately, in the age of social media, even campaigns with good intentions can go viral very quickly for the wrong reasons.
Gendering universal products
As feminism and LGBTQ issues come to the fore, gender has become an increasingly important issue, with various companies finding themselves in the firing line for ill-thought out marketing campaigns.
BIC’s pink and purple pens ‘for her’ went viral in 2012 thanks to a wave of sarcastic reviews from angered women at the somewhat patronising product. More recently, Doritos received criticism after Indra Nooyi, the CEO of their parent company PepsiCo, asserted that ladies ‘don’t like to crunch too loudly in public’ or ‘lick their fingers’, with the company planning a range of snacks designed specifically for women.
While the plans were dropped quickly, the lesson to take away from these examples is that trying to capture specific demographics through gendering universal products is rarely a wise move.
Clumsily referencing real issues
Capitalising on hot trends is an effective form of marketing, but must be done with caution - particularly if those trends are serious social issues.
Pepsi are perhaps the highest profile example of clumsily referencing a social issue, with their now famous Kendall Jenner protest advert. The ad, which showed Jenner smiling through a super-fun protest and sharing a can of Pepsi with a police officer, received considerable criticism for trivialising social justice movements.
Timing is everything in marketing, and the release of the controversial ad during the peak of the highly significant Black Lives Matter campaign was a costly misjudgement.
In addition to social movements, marketers also need to be careful when referencing other issues too. This year Snapchat sparked outrage with an advert asking whether users would rather slap Rihanna or punch Chris Brown, sparking mass outrage. If you are hoping to capitalise on a recent trend or pop culture reference, keep it light and inoffensive.
Ad campaigns getting hijacked
While those devising the campaign are responsible for the previous mistakes, a number of innocuous marketing campaigns have been hijacked with social media users to blame.
Last year, Walkers asked users to submit selfies for an opportunity to win tickets to a football game. The submissions were then displayed on a blank placard held by a smiling Gary Lineker.
This proved too much to resist for Twitter trolls, who submitted pictures of serial killers, dictators and other renowned criminals, all of which were displayed on Walkers’ Twitter page.
McDonald’s also had a similarly innocent campaign hacked in 2012, when they asked customers to share fond memories of the brand via Twitter. People instead took the opportunity to tweet their horror stories of the restaurant chain, all of which were archived under McDonald’s hashtag.
Marketing can be a tricky job, and as social media becomes more and more influential, it is paramount for marketers to consider campaigns from every possible angle.