December 19, 2019 By BriteIdea

6 Marketing Campaigns That Missed The Mark

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As we enter the next decade, we wanted to take a look back at some marketing campaigns that just missed the mark, because after all, Eleanor Roosevelt once said “Learn from the mistakes of others. You can’t live long enough to make them all yourself.” Taking a look back will help you better understand why all facets of a marketing plan — research, strategy, creative execution, placement, and management — must work together for it to be successful. Let’s dive into some lessons we can all learn! 

The Gap 


At the start of the decade, The Gap suddenly changed its logo to update its branding. Rebrands are common, as a company grows and restructures its brand mission and vision. Unfortunately, for the Gap, their rebranding led to failure as there was no reason or shift behind the change. On top of this, they failed to survey their customers, which is vital in a rebrand, to see what they gravitate to. The result was an uproar of criticism from their customers that led them to switch back to their original logo a week after the release. A costly mistake! 


When thinking of a rebrand, focus on the why. A rebrand should be tied to your overall brand mission and not solely be tied to an aesthetic change. Keep the needs and wants of your target audience in your marketing plan, with visuals and logos that match the trajectory of your company. We strongly suggest performing a Brand Audit which includes a deep dive into your overall brand story and will help you survey your customer base. This is key to a successful rebrand. 


Interested in a Brand Audit? Contact us here


The New York Times

NYT Email

An email marketing snafu got The New York Times in some hot water in 2011. As part of their retention campaign, The New York Times intended to send an email to people who had recently canceled their subscription. The email asked for them to reconsider and offered a discount to encourage them to come back. Sounds like a pretty good email marketing tactic, right? Well, The New York Times made the mistake of accidentally sending this email to the wrong list. Rather than sending it to the 300 people intended, they sent it to over eight million people. Making matters worse, The Times tried denying that they even sent the email. Eventually, they admitted their mistake and honored the discount for their readers. 


Take this as an excellent reminder to always triple-check your email recipient list and make sure it’s constantly up-to-date by scrubbing it regularly. A mistake like this can have more than just monetary consequences. It could indicate to your customers that you’re out of touch. You need to present a unified front that matches and supports your business’s brand and marketing strategy. Most importantly, when your company does make a mistake, the best strategy is to just own it. Playing the blame game or denying it typically leads to more public backlash. 



Bloomingdale's ad

In 2015, Bloomingdale’s holiday campaign included the below ad, which caused quite a bit of backlash. The ad was considered inappropriate as it featured a serious-looking man, who also strongly resembles the “Blurred Lines” singer Robin Thicke, suggestively staring at a laughing woman who is faced away from him. A little creepy? Maybe. However, the real issue is in the caption: “Spike, your best friend’s eggnog when they’re not looking.” Ah, nothing like the promotion of date rape to get you in the Holiday spirit! Rightfully so, customers took to Twitter lashing out at the brand and copywriters for allowing this to make it to print. 

The Takeaway:

Set a process to ensure your marketing team gets as many eyes on a campaign as possible before it runs. Have each person ask themselves, “How will my customers perceive this?” It helps in getting multiple opinions and perspectives, eliminating the chance of a potentially offensive and tone-deaf ad to get published. 


The Department of Education 

Typos are a fact of our internet world. We are human and it’s inevitable from time-to-time, especially if you work in a small or one-person marketing team. Most of the time, these occasional slip-ups are forgivable. However, this was not the case for the Department of Education in 2017; their typo caused a social media uproar! 

Dept of edu fail

In the above tweet highlighting the importance of education, the Department of Education accidentally misspelled the name of famous historian and civil rights activist W.E.B. Du Bois. Twitter’s response was ruthless, and it didn’t help that this was during the controversial appointment of Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education. To make matters worse, the apology they tweeted misspelled the word “apologies,” which only further fueled the ridicule. 



Always edit and double-check your content and sources. Similar to the above takeaway, set up a proofreading process before your content goes live to avoid simple mistakes. 


The United States Air Force

You might remember the great Yanny/Laurel debate of 2018 that took the social media world by storm. If you don’t, this  audio clip caused people to split into two teams, those that heard Yanny (the BI Team) and those that heard Laurel. You couldn’t escape the #Yanny and #Laurel that took over your social media news feeds. Soon brands like Skittles, Warby Parker, and more shared posts that put themselves in the debate. Then the United States Air Force stepped in, and things did not go well. The below tweet has since been deleted, but the damage was already done.

Air force tweet

Unsurprisingly, their tweet came off as insensitive to a vast majority of people. After getting backlash, the post was removed, and the Air Force of course issued an apology. 


The lesson here is that brands need to be careful about what and how they newsjack. It may be tempting to jump on a popular hashtag to gain impressions and increase your reach, but this isn’t always the best strategy. Our advice is always to make sure that the trending hashtag you try to align your company with makes sense, is on-brand, and most importantly is used tastefully.



Peloton Bike

As part of their holiday campaign, Peloton released a 30-second ad that caused quite a bit of controversy this year. The ad features a woman, who is gifted a Peloton by what the viewer can assume is her husband. As she embarks on her fitness journey, she begins to film herself using the bike. At the end of the ad, we learn that these second long vignettes have been spliced together as a thank you video to her husband for the gift of Peloton at Christmas one year later. The ad received major criticism on social media for being sexist, outdated, and out of touch. Peloton later released a statement explaining that their ad was meant to celebrate the fitness journey their customers embark on and promote wellness. 


With such a powerful message that should have resonated with their target audience, how did Peloton miss the mark? Peloton missed the connection aspect. Their ad felt formulated rather than share the real stories of their customers. For example, take a look at LifeProof’s ad featuring a real user of their product and their real story. You don’t need to tug at your target audience’s heartstrings to be successful — focus on what will make a connection.   


Your overall marketing strategy might have several moving parts, be sure your marketing, creative, and public relations teams are working hand-in-hand to reach your overall goal. A major mistake can harm your brand for years to come and permanently change how your customers’ perceive of your business. Planning, research, and implementation must all be integrated and work together toward a singular goal for marketing to be effective. When in doubt, turn to the experts! Working with an agency, like BriteIdea Marketing, has several perks!

Our digital marketing experts, with over 35 years of combined marketing experience, have a proven and seamless process to strategize, launch, and sustain a successful marketing and digital advertising strategy. Contact us to schedule a complimentary consultation!