Five Marketing Mess Ups and How to Avoid Them

Every once in a while, a brand– or in the most recent case, a whole state– will draft and post a social media or standard marketing campaign so poorly thought out you wish you had been in the boardroom when it was approved. Rarely aiming for offense, the brands quickly become social media cannon fodder, apologizes, and the populace moves on to the next blunder. They succeed in that these gaffs get people to talk about the brand, but the effect on their reputation is rarely worth the chatter. Here are five marketing mess-ups to avoid and why they didn’t work.

#1 Dove Body Lotion

Unfortunately, common sense isn’t always so common, and a perfect example of that is the Dove body lotion campaign from early this year. The campaign aimed to be part of their Real Beauty initiative but quickly became a justly targeted example of the importance of having a diverse group of people working in your boardroom. The ad showed an African American woman lifting a brown shirt after using Dove turning into a white woman in a white shirt. Not the type of “transformation” any brand should be going for—an easily avoidable PR nightmare.

Dove marketing mess up

#2 Bic For Her 

Our second example misses the mark, but its reactions were pretty funny, having been ridiculed by all, including having a segment on The Ellen DeGeneres Show. BIC for Her was an attempt at designing a pen just for women. Companies are often great at deciding what the market wants and need before the general public even realizes they need it, but that was very much not the case with BIC for Her. Most of the reactions were pretty humorous, but a segment of their demographic found the whole notion to be offensive, causing them to switch brands. Not what you want to happen when you launch a new product.

BIC for Her Pens Marketing Mess Up

#3 Starbucks Coffee

Clear and effective advertising and posting are crucial parts of a fully fleshed-out marketing plan. The average consumer should read your ad and immediately understand what you’re saying and what you’re selling. Starbucks failed to do this when it introduced its Blonde roast espresso. “Who says espresso has to be intense? We have for 43 years. But we’re Starbucks Coffee Company. So we did the exact opposite.” …What? Are they saying Blonde is the opposite of intense? They’re likely trying to say that their Blonde roast isn’t as intense as standard espresso, but this was not the best way to get the message across, and the internet had a field day making fun of them.

#4 DiGiorno

Using trending hashtags is a fun way for a brand to seem more “real” and front-facing than they usually would. A viral tweet using the right one can be hugely beneficial to a business. That said, you must research what a tag is used for and what it is referencing before hitting tweet. No matter how innocent the intention, one misstep can quickly turn into a nightmare. The hashtag #WhyIStayed was used to spread domestic violence awareness and understanding, a serious topic where jokes would be inappropriate for any brand. DiGiorno Pizza jumped in on the trend by tweeting, “#WhyIStayed You had pizza.” This was definitely not a good look for the company and could have easily been avoided. They apologized, but the backlash was heavy, and they lost quite a few customers.

DiGiorno Marketing Mess Up

#5 US Department of Education

Another thing to keep in mind is the importance of proofreading your copy! Not only does a misspelling look unprofessional, but it can also totally undermine the point of the content as a whole. A prime example of this is a tweet from the US Department of Education of all places. They meant to quote W.E.B. DuBois but wound up crediting W.E.B. DeBois. Not quite the vowel they were looking for. While they were lucky it was only a letter off, unedited copy can severely damage a company’s reputation.

We live in a constantly connected, transparent world where taking a screenshot of a marketing misstep barely takes moving a finger, which means brands have to stay on top of the content they are producing and the message that it sends. It’s essential to look at things from all angles to ensure your initiatives will be interpreted correctly and will boost your business. Some may argue that by getting people to talk about their brands, these failures are wins, but it’s not the best plan to gain notoriety for the wrong reasons. 

So after looking at these five marketing mess-ups, now you may be asking yourself an important question: “How does my company avoid making such bad mistakes?” Well, that’s where The AD Leaf comes in! Our diverse social media team is full of experts to help guide your marketing campaigns to successful completion. Give us a call today at (321) 255-0900, or send us an email at

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Shannon Sullivan Shannon Sullivan