Five Marketing Fails That Hurt a Little7 min read

General Marketing

People (and companies) are imperfect. But the internet never forgets. Here are five marketing failures that begin with a face palm and most likely end with someone getting chewed out by their boss:

1- The Bloomingdale’s Holiday Ad Incident of ’15

Oh the holidays. What a wonderful time of year- filled with snow flurries, hot cocoa, and of course, lots and lots of retail shopping. It’s a season that gives marketers both excited jitters and stress-induced migraines. Marketing a major retailer such as Bloomingdale’s for the holidays is certainly no easy task, but it does come with infinite creative potential just waiting to be transformed into record sales. Unfortunately for Bloomingdale’s, they definitely missed the mark with their catalog copy in 2015:

Blame it on the ah- ah- ah- alcohol (or maybe in this case eggnog), but someone messed up on this one. Big time. Maybe they thought saying “best friend” made it not rapey. Maybe they thought the laughing model made it seem like spiking someone’s drink is funny. Probably, they were just in a hurry to get the catalog out and too many people were too busy to actually think about the copy. Whatever they were thinking, or not thinking, Bloomingdale’s definitely paid for the mistake. Angry consumers took to all channels to express their frustrations over this ad, and the issue went viral, making headlines with major news sources, such as NBC News and The Wall Street Journal.

Bloomingdale’s apologized for the ad, stating:

“In reflection of recent feedback, the copy we used in our current catalog was inappropriate and in poor taste. Bloomingdale’s sincerely apologizes for this error in judgment.” 

But it is safe to say the damage was done. Although this ad wasn’t the sole reason for Macy’s (owner of Bloomingdale’s) sharp fall in net income in Q4 of 2015, it certainly didn’t help. Let’s hope this holiday season will bear happier tidings for the upscale department store.

2- Airbnb Distracting Rebranding Attempt

There’s no denying that rebranding a company is a huge undertaking. It is only done when absolutely crucial to the success or survival of the company and it is done very, very carefully. In 2014, Airbnb decided to do just that. Everything appeared to go okay at first. They refreshed their website and gave a new image to the shared vacation home marketplace. Unfortunately for Airbnb, the internet got ahold of it, and, well, they started drawing similarities between the new logo and…erm… certain body parts.

Now when you’re trying to boost your company and create a new image to surround it, genitalia isn’t usually the best association to have with your logo. Unless maybe you’re in the reproductive health industry. I don’t know. Either way, this certainly put a dent in the brand’s kickoff of the new logo at the time. Fortunately, Airbnb certainly seems to have recovered from this little setback. Recent estimates predict that Airbnb will be bringing in $12.3 billion in reservations this year, up from an estimated $7.2 billion in 2015.  So yeah, I think they’re doing just fine now.

3- Under Armour’s “Band of Ballers” Fiasco

Speaking as someone pretty familiar with military culture, I can tell you one very important rule when it comes to marketing: Don’t piss off the veterans. Although members of the Armed Forces are not the largest demographic, they are a very impactful one. So when Under Armour came out with their “Band of Ballers” t-shirt, it’s clear that someone just wasn’t thinking over in their design department.

Once again, the masses took to the internet to express their outrage that an Under Armour t-shirt single handedly managed to dishonor a memorial of historical heroes with a basketball pun. Both Facebook and Twitter were flooded with complaints from consumers who were demanding that the company remove the shirt from the website immediately. In a series of Tweets, Under Armour took responsibility for the offense and promised to never make the mistake again. However interestingly enough, the shirt was completely sold out online just a few days later…

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