7 Shocking Marketing Mistakes and Fails


There's no doubt about it that marketing isn't always smooth sailing and even some of the most successful brands in the world launch campaigns that aren't received well at all. In fact, some of the following campaigns from the likes of McDonalds and Coca Cola even went as far as to cause public outrage. Here are seven of the worst marketing mistakes we've ever seen!


Arguably one of the biggest marketing fails of 2018 has to be Pepsi's offensive and failed 'black lives matter' advert featuring supermodel Kendall Jenner. The ad was based on a protest which saw Jenner handing a police officer a can of Pepsi in order to win him over and end the issue. The result? People immediately deemed it exploitive and insensitive as it used a hugely important issue to try and sell and promote a product.




Adidas customers that took part in the 2017 Boston marathon received a poorly worded and badly timed email from the fitness giants. The subject line simply read 'congrats, you survived the Boston Marathon'. Although you may not immediately see the offense caused with this, the email came just a few years following the Boston Marathon bombing which took the lives of three people and left 250 seriously injured. Customers that received the email were not impressed in the slightest.



UK crisp company Walkers launched a 'selfie' competition a few years back in order to try and engage with their customers and get them involved on their marketing campaign.
The concept was simple; customers were asked to submit their selfie pictures to be in with a chance of winning tickets to a major sporting event. Although this seemed pretty straightforward, a number of people submitted inappropriate images of serial killers, criminals and dictators all of which were set live as Walkers failed to check the images before publishing them. Slightly embarrassing to say the least!

Coca Cola


Known for being one of the world's most iconic beverage brands; Coca Cola haven't always had success with their marketing tactics. In an attempt to revamp the brand, they foolishly decided to change the recipe of their original fizzy drink in April 1985. The response was so negative that the company's call centers were bombarded with complaints and there were even threats of lawsuits. People were also hoarding the original Coca Cola recipe and selling it on the black market for hugely inflated prices.

By the summer of 1985, Coca Cola were forced to revert back to their original beloved beverage recipe. The lesson learnt: 'If it isn't broken, don't fix it'!


In hope of updating and rebranding themselves with a more modern and 'improved' logo; American clothing company Gap ended up having to change their logo back to the original after just two days. Their customers felt they had tried to appeal to a newer and younger audience, completely disregarding their demographic and it's safe to say that the new logo definitely wasn't a hit.

United States Air Force

It's no surprise that the majority of people remember the whole 'Yanny' 'Laurel' debate that blew up across social media in 2018. What began as a light-hearted and fun debate was quickly turned sour by the U.S Air Force on Twitter. They tweeted: "The Taliban Forces in Farah city #Afghanistan would much rather have heard #Yanny or #Laurel than the deafening #BRRRT they got courtesy of our #A10".


Although keeping up to date with social media trends and topics and responding to them can be beneficial to your brand in terms of marketing, it is also incredibly important to know where to draw the line. This tweet was seen as hugely inappropriate and tasteless by a number of twitter users, resulting in them having to delete the tweet and issue a public apology.



In 2009, one of America's largest and most popular video game companies EA Sport sent out gold brass knuckles to their customers as part of a promotional campaign for 'The Godfather'. What EA didn't realize (or consider) was that these items are actually illegal weapons across most American states including California where EA is based. The company soon realized their huge mistake and worked towards rectifying it by requesting for all of the items to be returned by customers which resulted in many disgruntled and frustrated Godfather fans!

This article written by Team Umbrella, promotional risk management agency that provides management services and promotional marketing campaigns for a number of different brands, businesses and agencies.

by Steve Hall    Apr-23-19   Click to Comment   
Topic: Brands   

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