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Blogs by Madeleine Helme

Madeleine Helme

| 3 min read

Learn From These Marketing Campaign Fails

By Madeleine Helme

Learn From These Marketing Fails
Caïn by Henri Vidal, Tuileries Garden, Paris, 1896.

We all make mistakes. But when you’re a big brand in the limelight, there’s no chance of brushing those mistakes under the rug. A simple typo in a marketing campaign or an off-brand message gets picked up on immediately. These marketing fails quickly become viral and can be damaging to that brand's reputation.

Let’s revel in the embarrassment of some of these huge, successful brands with 3 big marketing fails of recent years. Hopefully, you’ll also learn something about what to avoid in your own marketing campaigns.

Gender egg-quality

I’d like to think we were already making big strides towards gender equality in 2017. Or at least increased awareness of it. But if The Co-Op’s Easter campaign from that year was anything to go by, we were still living with 1950’s ideals. Their Easter magazine ad displayed the following caption:

“Be a good egg. Treat your daughter for doing the washing up.”

This condescending caption received a lot of criticism on social media and beyond for its misogynistic and sexist message.

One of many criticism raised on social media.

Following the backlash, The Co-Op changed their ad copy for a caption that didn’t mention dishwashing at all.

Snake People in New York?

The winner of one of the most random marketing fails goes to The New York Times. Last year, a New York Times editor was working on a serious online article entitled “President Trump’s Exaggerated and Misleading Claims on Trade.”

The same editor also happened to have a satirical browser extension installed which was designed to change every instance of the word “millennials” to “snake people”…as you do. It also apparently changed “great recession” to “time of shedding and cold rocks”. I guess that’s what snake people are concerned about more than financial crashes.

So, the extension made these corrections, among others, making the article completely ridiculous and nonsensical.

A tweet about the correction posted later.

Not the biggest scandal in the world, but pretty embarrassing nonetheless.

Free Domino’s for everyone

We all love a good freebie, and Domino’s Pizza is known for handing out free pizzas to students every year. But in Russia last year, a Domino’s franchisee decided to launch a marketing campaign with an exclusive offer – free pizzas for life for anyone who tattooed the Domino’s logo on themselves.

Domino's Pizza Marketing Fail
Advert on the official Russian Domino's Pizza Facebook Page

In theory, it was a gimmick that would get them attention and even some free branding from the tattoos. What they didn’t anticipate is just how dedicated people are when it comes to free pizza.

Hundreds of people went out to get the tattoo almost immediately. The franchisee was forced to first limit the offer and then end it after just a few days to stop all those free pizzas from bankrupting them.

Just think of those people who didn’t get the message, inking themselves with the Domino’s logo after the offer had been cut short!

From the offensive to the downright ridiculous, these marketing fails from the past few years show us that even the big brands mess up. A marketing blunder from a small business won’t get as much negative attention as these big brands, but it’s always worth giving your campaigns multiple passes to ensure you’ve got it right.

Get in touch with Vitty if you need support with your marketing campaigns.