One of the hardest things about marketing is you can't always tell how an audience will take something. If you make a bold statement will they agree or be offended? If you attempt to make a joke will they laugh or take it to heart? Market research is a vital tool to help avoid these mistakes but occasionally companies mess up and sometimes, they use poor taste or poor judgement. Below is a list of a few.
1. Pepsi- Harrier Jet Commercial
This is one mistake that led to a lawsuit. Watching the commercial, you gather that you can collect Pepsi Points the more you drink and redeem those points for various items. It ends showing a jet and saying it would be 7,000,000. One man, John Leonard, had 15 Pepsi Points and paid ten cents for each of the rest of points (as stated in the rules) and then attempted to claim his jet. Of course, Pepsi wasn't offering jets in exchange for the points, it was more of a exaggeration and ended up with the courts ruling in favor of Pepsi as no reasonable person would believe a company would sell a $23 million jet for $700,000. Arguably, this is more of a mistake for Leonard than it was for Pepsi since the won the case and if anything, it gave them more publicity.
What we can learn: That fine print you can put at the bottom of the screen? USE IT.
2. McDonald's- Carry On Commerical
This video, which shows McDonald's signs after public tragedies such as 9/11 and the Boston bombing along with personal events such as anniversaries and welcoming babies into the world. The ad was was meant to depict the fast-food giant as an necessary part of local communities across the country. The ad, which aired during the 2015 Golden Globes had a few supporters but mostly received backlash. Most people were saying it is insensitive and tacky.
What we can learn: McDonald's was later quoted as saying that they expected a divide on the interruption of the commercial and the company was unapologetic. From a marketing perspective we can take away from this that if you have an ad that might be controversial, just warn your boss and have the PR ready with a statement.
3. Pepsi- Kendall Jenner Commercial
Here is another Pepsi ad that caused controversy and this one is much more recent. The ad showed Kendall Jenner posing for a fashion shoot while protesters run by holding signs demanding unspecific change. Jenner eventually rips of her blonde wig and joins the movement where a police officer accepts a can of Pepsi from her, setting off raucous approval from the protesters and an appreciative grin from the officer. Let's just say people did NOT approve. The ad has been called sick, trash, and tasteless and has caused celebrities to support a boycott of Pepsi products. It sparked major criticism for making light of current political movements, including Black Lives Matter and Women's Marches. Jenner has not spoken out about the ad and has removed all social media posts promoting it.
What we can learn: Focus groups are a thing for a reason and sometimes what you think is a good idea, isn't. Even if you aren't a huge company that can afford to conduct focus groups, you can ask a few honest friends and get the same results.
4. Burger King- Connected Whopper
Burger king recently came out with this 15 second ad which depicts a burger king employee who asks “OK Google, what is the Whopper burger?” Essentially, a burger king commercial was hi-jacking people's Google homes devices by triggering a response. At first, google would take from the Burger King Wikipedia page and in real time read the ingredients. Then people began editing the wiki page adding "cyanide" and "human flesh" and other jokes. Eventually, the execs at Google made it so google home doesn't register the audio on the commercial.
What we can learn: While it's a great idea to incorporate modern technology and partnerships, when you want to partner with a company, ASK! Perhaps this mishap could've been avoided if Burger King approached google before creating a now useless ad.
In the end, creating an ad that is widely talked about and everyone loves isn't always easy and sometimes you can't have both. While these ads created quite the stir, I think it goes back to the old saying "any press is good press" but to keep in mind the cost of losing customers and producing ads that can't run. What do you think? Would an offensive ad cost you brand loyalty? Comment below and let's chat.
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Hi there, it's me, Michelle! Welcome to my blog. It’s a deeper look into my business and marketing tips for you.