When a marketing idea goes right it can mean big things for the company in terms of sales, brand awareness, and reputation, but when it goes wrong, it can go really wrong. In this article we’ll be exploring some examples of the worst marketing fails by well-known brands and why they were so badly received. Everyone makes mistakes and good ideas can be taken out of context, but we have to wonder what some of these marketing teams were thinking with these campaigns. 


Pepsi and Kendall Jenner advert (2017)

If someone asks you to think about marketing fails this one is probably going to be high on your list, if not the top. In 2017, Pepsi released and advert featuring Kendall Jenner in which she sees a protest nearby whilst filming a photoshoot and goes to help calm things down by giving the police officers trying to stop the protest cans of Pepsi. As you can imagine, this was not well-received by consumers. 

Both the company and Jenner came under fire as the advert was viewed as not only highly insensitive and undermining the issues that people were protesting at the time (the Black Lives Matter racial movement), but they were also accused of using the social climate of the time to make money and sell their products. Even though Pepsi has since recovered from this marketing blunder and are still successful in the soft drinks industry, everyone still remembers the advert, so their reputation will always be slightly tarnished by it. 


Burger King’s International Women’s Day Tweet (2021)

Sometimes companies can have good intentions that get completely lost in translation on social media, which is what happened with Burger King’s tweet in 2021. The company wanted to announce their scholarship programme that would help women get better access to culinary arts degrees and highlight a key industry gender gap statistic on International Women’s Day that only 20% of professional chefs in UK restaurants are women. 

However, that message was completely overshadowed by their first tweet in the thread which read “women belong in the kitchen”. Despite the fact that this first tweet was only meant to grab users’ attention, it did so for all the wrong reasons with many people not even seeing the follow up tweets in the thread.  

Burger King face massive backlash with accusations of sexism not just from the fast-food chain but from some individuals in the comments expressing support for sexist ideologies. The company deleted the original thread and issued an apology with an explanation for their intention, saying they won’t make a mistake like that again. 

Co-op’s ‘Be a good egg’ advert (2017)

In 2017 Co-op put out a print ad in newspapers for Easter that carried the slogan ‘Be a good egg. Treat your daughter for doing the washing up.’ Unsurprisingly, the company were hit with a lot of complaints and accusations of sexism. Even though they acted quickly to change the advert and released an apology, their reputation had suffered significant damage, which took a while to recover from. 


Dove’s body wash advert (2017)

2017 seems to be one of the biggest years for marketing fails and controversies as we add Dove to the list for a poorly executed advert campaign. They posted a short video on Facebook of three women of different ethnicities with each one taking off a t-shirt to reveal the next woman. The idea behind the video was to show that body wash is for every woman and diversity should be celebrated. 

However, to some people the video came across like the black woman was being transformed into a white woman after using the body wash, with implications that the first woman wasn’t as clean. Dove was accused of racism and quickly responded by removing the video and issuing an apology saying they ‘missed the mark in representing women of colour thoughtfully’. Some people still boycott Dove products to this day because of that advert, which shows just how damaging one bad marketing mistake can be. 


Paddy Power lorry adverts (2015)

Paddy Power claimed this advert was just a long running joke, but it was certainly not received that way by pretty much anyone who saw it. In 2015 when the UK was right in the middle of an immigrant crisis, Paddy Power started a campaign with an image of multiple sports stars with Andy Murray at the front and the slogan ‘Immigrants, jump in the back (but only if you’re good at sport)’. 

Not only that but the ad was displayed on a number of lorries, which is often associated as a method of transportation for immigrants. It couldn’t have looked any worse. Those who complained about the ad said the company was making light of the current crisis and using a serious issue to draw attention to their services. Paddy Power stated that the ad was not meant to be insulting to immigrants or cause any offence. 


What can be learned from these marketing blunders?

The main takeaway from these marketing mistakes is that every campaign needs to be thoroughly planned out and considered from all perspectives. Successful marketing campaigns don’t always have to be about making bold public statements or social commentary that will go viral and as we have seen, it can sometimes do more harm than good. 

An idea might sound really positive and have all the right messaging and intentions, but if it isn’t executed properly it can result in a ruined brand reputation and a significant loss in business. If you want to create a marketing campaign that will go viral, make sure it is for the right reasons. 



Looking for ways to improve your digital marketing? a creative marketing agency like Deliver can help you make all the right choices and come up with campaigns that won’t end up on a list like the one above. We provide the ideal digital marketing solutions for businesses in various industries. Get started with us today by requesting a free audit to see how your current website and marketing efforts are performing and don’t hesitate to contact us if you have any questions.