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CEO and Founder, The Go! Agency

Marketing Faux-Pas to Learn from

Marketing Faux-Pas to Learn from

There’s no doubt about it, we live in a society where one slip up can cost you an untold amount of money and a whole customer base. Even if an advertisement was never in any way meant to be offensive, an accidental negative message can crush a company’s image. Marketing can make or break you. How can you stay politically correct without ever intending for a political statement in the first place? Of course, people have the tendency to twist things and distort messages in a light that was never meant to be. However, the best way to protect yourself is to ignore the mistakes of the past. Here are some ads that backfired for their brand:

  • Gap received hard criticism for using an image that contained a Caucasian girl leaning her propped arm on an African American girl’s head. People were furious over this imagery and Gap had to apologize quickly.
  • Bud Light made a big mistake by using “The perfect beer for removing “no” from your vocabulary for the night. #UpForWhatever” on their packaging. People mistook it for promoting not only reckless behavior, but sexual assault. Bud Light’s VP apologized personally, but a large chunk of damage was done.
  • In an attempt to bash their competitor, Sprint asked a Caucasian woman what she’s reminded of when thinking about T-Mobile. She said it’s ghetto, which raised a firestorm around Sprint, saying they were insinuating racist and classist thinking.
  • Perhaps the most recent marketing blunder goes to Cheerios. They posted an image saying “Rest in Peace” meant to pay tribute to Prince. They replaced the i’s dot with a piece of their round cereal and people said they were using the music icon’s passing as a way to promote their product. Oops!

Talk about controversy, right? All these mistakes show that a message can be taken the wrong way without the creator ever intending anything. It can seem like you’re walking on eggshells, but try to put yourself in other’s shoes. When crafting posts, it is important to realize that EVERYBODY can see what you write and with that, comes a lot of subjective interpretation. Try your best to see your image from any angle possible and get a colleague to play devil’s advocate.

For more advertising errors, check out Entrepreneur’s article here: http://ow.ly/4nqLms

Do you have any other examples or personal experiences in advertising backfires? Share with us below!

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