Five Marketing Fails That Hurt a Little

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…

The Mystery of Fanny Moore

General Marketing

Every afternoon as I make the drive back home from campus, I pass by a plethora of billboards. Like so many commuters, I have learned to pretty much ignore every single one. They become nothing more than background noise as I struggle through the traffic on Atlanta Highway. However, one particular billboard always catches my eye, and I began to notice several versions of it posted all around Athens.


Meet Fanny Moore. She’s running for Chair Cushion Regulation Authority. It was her catchy slogan that got my attention “Busting Mine… For Yours!”. Now I don’t normally fall for cheesy lines but I will admit, the butt pun got to me. Later that day I was riding in the car with a friend and we passed by one of Fanny’s billboards again and I asked my friend if she had noticed this funny campaign yet. What took place after that question quickly turned into a thirty minute argument over the validity of the ads. I insisted that it was just a catchy local campaign trying to get people’s attention while she argued that it was just a fake joke.

Truthfully, I have no idea why things got so heated or why we couldn’t find anything better to talk about, but we eventually gave in and did the good ol’ Google search to settle the argument for us. Upon finding Fanny’s campaign website, I victoriously shouted “I told you so” to my friend and proceeded to show her the different pictures of Fanny and all of her positions on “the issues”. Seems legit, right?

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It wasn’t until my friend clicked on the copyright information at the bottom of Mrs. Moore’s site that I realized I had been so, so wrong. Where that link took us was to Fairway Outdoor Advertising, the company who owns all of the billboards around town, specifically the billboards that Fanny’s face is all over.

It slowly dawned on me that I (and yes, it hurts to say this) was wrong. Fanny isn’t running for Chair Cushion Regulation Authority. There isn’t even such a thing as a Chair Cushion Regulation Authority! (Yeah, I should’ve known that already…)

What was really happening was actually a very, very cool marketing strategy employed by the good folks over at Fairway.

We’ve all seen at one point or another an empty billboard on a highway somewhere. Usually it will have “ADVERTISE HERE” written in very big, very bold letters with a number on the bottom somewhere. That means that no one has booked the billboard and that the company is asking for business. That may seem like the easiest way to get someone’s attention who is in fact in the market for a little on the ground, outbound marketing, but it can really backfire on your business. Potential leads could see the empty sign and actually be discouraged from booking it because its emptiness makes you wonder if there is a reason no one has wanted to use it previously. On the other side of things, if the billboard is in use, you have no idea how to contact the company because they don’t usually include their number near the sign, as it would distract consumers from the real advertisement.

Fairway seemed to realize this conundrum and thus, Fanny Moore was born. Her friendly and memorable face stands out amongst all the other background noise, while the butt pun is sure to make you chuckle and remember her name. The slight absurdity of the whole thing gets you to Google, and if you’re as determined as I was to prove a friend wrong, you eventually find yourself on Fairway’s website, wanting to rent a billboard just because the company deserves some business after that awesome marketing ploy. (More realistically, you want to rent the billboard because you realize you could produce something that stands out as well as Fanny Moore does and help drive consumers to your business.)

The bigger picture behind this whole story is that in today’s world, there’s no doubt about it: it can be hard as hell to stand out amongst the crowd. The billboard industry especially feels the hurt as we gradually gravitate solely to digital marketing, all the while texting and driving and ignoring many big things on the road (be it a billboard or the car in front of you at the red light). But if you can get creative, and do it right, you can find ways to make yourself known and get people’s attention, without making them feel tricked or annoyed.

So just remember: Be like Fanny, and do MOORE.

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