Without advertising and publicising, a business could disappear into irrelevance and be completely forgotten—worse, however, is the damage that can be caused by poor marketing choices.
At best, these choices can be a simple mistake—cause for a quick laugh—which is then swiftly swept under the rug and forgiven. At worst, they are heralded as tone-deaf and leaves one wondering, ‘why did they think this would work?’ and ‘how on earth did this get approved?’
One of the worst in recent years is Pepsi’s advertisement featuring Kendall Jenner of the Kardashian family.
Amid rampant protests featured in the ad, Kendall Jenner appears to triumphantly and heroically put everything to a standstill—with a can of Pepsi.
The ad shows a blatant misunderstanding of protests amid the height of the Black Lives Matter movement, and exploiting a serious real-life issue to promote a brand was met with widespread criticism, to the point that an SNL sketch parodied it.
An apology was issued by PepsiCo, and the ad was removed.
Adweek reported that Edward Boches, Professor of advertising at Boston University and CCO at Mullen Lowe, said: “Ridiculous ad … Shows no awareness of the protesters’ mindset or environment. Feels completely dishonest and contrived.
Was clearly done by people who have not attended a protest or spent time on the streets and have no understanding of the pent-up anger.” According to Brad Jakeman, former President of PepsiCo, the ad “was the most gut-wrenching experience of [his] career.”
The ad went on to be widely regarded as the biggest marketing disaster of 2017.
As Brandwatch reports, there was a 21000%+ increase in mentions, with more than 427,000 mentions of Pepsi on various social media platforms on April 4th alone, and April 5th gaining an additional 1.25 million mentions.
What these and many failed marketing campaigns have in common is their focus on social issues and politics, as well as untimeliness.
While these topics can be handled well, a misstep can cause unintentional backlash and do a company far more harm than good.
When making branding decisions, its best to ask if it’s worth the risk—or if it’ll benefit from a bit of extra research into the topic it attempts to handle.