The worst marketing blunders that rival Bud Light (2023)

Bud Light sales have plummeted in every US region in the wake of its partnership with trans influencer Dylan Mulvaney.

The beer brand has suffered from its tie-up with Mulvaney, with sales in the Rocky Mountain states down by 29 per cent, according to data from Beer Business Daily.

In a Bloomberg Opinion column on Saturday, advertising and brands expert Ben Schott called the Bud Light imbroglio 'a marketing case study for the ages' in 'how not to handle brand collaborations in a dangerously polarized space.'

Here examines the other advertising campaigns that have backfired spectacularly:

Pepsi: Kendall Jenner ad infuriates Black Lives Matter

Pepsi's excruciating advert that showed Kendall Jenner making peace with a police officer at a protest by handing him a can of pop ignited fury among black rights activists, including Bernice King, the daughter of Martin Luther King Jr.

Critics said the ad ignored the realities of how black protestors are met with police brutality

Pepsi got itself into a fizz with its bizarre 2017 mash-up of Kendall Jenner, Black Lives Matter and Bob Marley's grandson.

Its advert was meant to project a message of global unity, but it was pulled after a week amid accusations it was trivializing the fight against racism.

Set to the song 'Lions' by Skip Marley, it featured attractive youngsters marching through streets across the world holding banners of peace and love.

Kendall, who is somehow watching all this unfold while posing for a glamorous photoshoot in a blonde wig, appears inspired by their action and is encouraged to join in by a trendy cellist.

She throws off her wig to reveal her jet black hair, which she tosses wildly as if to indicate she is ready to solve world hunger.

If that isn't puzzling enough, the supermodel then joins a horde of protesters, grabs a can of Pepsi from a bucket which appears inexplicably and - encouraged by a nod from her cellist friend - hands it to a police officer marshaling the protest, who drinks it with a smile and exhalation of breath that is the worldwide signal for being refreshed.

The idea - possibly - was to show that Pepsi can bring warring parties together.

In the end, it unleashed a torrent of criticism, with activists slamming the advert for piggy-backing on the Black Lives Matter movement, while depicting the exact opposite of the police brutality they had experienced.

Bernice King, daughter of Martin Luther King Kr, tweeted sarcastically: 'If only Daddy would have known about the power of #Pepsi.'

The drinks giant quickly apologized: 'Pepsi was trying to project a global message of unity, peace and understanding. Clearly, we missed the mark and apologize,' it said in a statement.

'We did not intend to make light of any serious issue. We are pulling the content and halting any further rollout.'

Ford: Berlusconi advert backfires for car manufacturer

Car backfire: An advert for a Ford Figo in India featuring bound and gagged women

The posters included celebrities in the front seat including Paris Hilton and Silvio Berlusconi along with the tagline 'Leave Your Worries Behind With Figo's extra-large boot'

An advert featuring three women - one in a bikini - gagged and bound up in the boot of a car was an odd choice for a Ford campaign at the best of times.

Factor in the year was 2013 - and India, where the advert appeared, had just passed a new anti-rape law after months of public outcry about the need to protect women from sexual violence - and you'll understand why this motor advert backfired badly.

The Detroit manufacturer was forced to apologize and admit the adverts should never have happened.

The ads were posted online by Ford's Indian ad agency and featured a variety of different celebrities smiling in the front of the car.

One poster for a Ford Figo showed caricatures of three scantily clad women gagged, bound, and crammed into the back of the car while the then Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi looked back smiling from the front seat. The tag line at the bottom of the ad said, 'Leave Your Worries Behind With Figo's extra-large boot.'

Ford admitted the ads should never have been created, while the car manufacturer also expressed 'deep regret' and said 'it should never have happened'.

Adidas: 'Congrats, you survived the Boston Marathon!'

Adidas sent an email to runners of the 2017 Boston Marathon congratulating them for 'surviving the race', four years after three people were killed in a bombing at the event

The sportswear brand was forced into a groveling apology

Adidas was forced to apologize for an 'insensitive email' it sent in 2017 after congratulating Boston Marathon runners who 'survived' the race.

The subject line of the note read: 'Congrats, you survived the Boston Marathon!' Just four years earlier, a bombing at the event killed three people and injured more than 260 others.

The sportswear firm was accused of being tone deaf and quickly apologized.

'We are incredibly sorry,' it said in a statement. 'Clearly, there was no thought given to the insensitive email subject line... We deeply apologize for our mistake. The Boston Marathon is one of the most inspirational sporting events in the world. Every year we're reminded of the hope and resiliency of the running community at this event.'

At least two survivors of the 2013 bombing competed in 2017, according to the Boston Globe.

Airbnb: Gaffe leaves firm up the creek without a paddle

Airbnb released this campaign as much of Houston was still submerged in water following Hurricane Harvey, which ultimately claimed 107 lives and destroyed thousands of homes

Airbnb was left red-faced after it launched an email marketing campaign for 'Floating World' accommodation after Hurricane Harvey devastated Texas in 2017.

The holiday-rental site was trying to promote a number of water-themed homes from riverboats to seaside attractions, describing 'how to spend a day without touching dry land' and encouraging customers to 'live the life aquatic with these floating homes'.

But at the time the campaign was launched, much of Houston remained submerged following unprecedented rainfall.

Hurricane Harvey ultimately claimed 107 lives, destroyed thousands of homes and caused billions of dollars of damage.

Sadly for Airbnb, the blunder overshadowed its gesture to waive its service fees for homeowners wanting to list their properties to take in those who had been left homeless by the disaster.

Airbnb apologized for the campaign, agreeing the timing was 'insensitive'.

Burger King: 'Women belong in the kitchen'

Burger King sparked fury after launching an ad with the tagline 'women belong in the kitchen'

It might have been an attempt at a humorous tease.

But Burger King's decision to launch an ad with the tagline 'women belong in the kitchen' - on International Women's Day - turned out to be a whopping blunder.

The fast food chain's campaign to launch its new culinary scholarship program included a full-page ad from the Burger King Foundation, the company's US-based nonprofit arm, in the print edition of The New York Times.

The full wording of the advert purveys a more progressive point:

'Fine dining kitchens, food truck kitchens, award-winning kitchens, casual dining kitchens, ghost kitchens, Burger King kitchens. If there's a professional kitchen, women belong there,' the ad continued.

'But can you guess who's leading those kitchens these days? Exactly. Only 24% of chef positions in America are occupied by women. Want to talk head chefs? The number drops to fewer than 7%.'

But the damage had been done by the 'clickbait' headline, which the chain's UK arm also put out on social media in a single tweet.

It triggered a fierce backlash online, but Burger King initially stood by its campaign, tweeting: 'Why would we delete a tweet that's drawing attention to a huge lack of female representation in our industry, we thought you'd be on board with this as well?'

Eventually, it caved, tweeting an apology and deleting the original Twitter post, citing 'abusive comments' in the thread.

ink!: Colorado coffee house roasted over gloating ad

Colorado coffee chain ink! sparked anger after boasting about gentrifying neighborhoods

Colorado coffee house chain ink! sparked widespread fury in 2017 after one of its Denver stores displayed a message on its sidewalk sandwich-board that read: 'Happily Gentrifying The Neighborhood Since 2014.'

On the back, the sign read: 'Nothing Says Gentrification Like Being Able To Order A Cortado.'

The store in question was location in the Five Points neighborhood, an area particularly sensitive to the gentrification that had been taking place over a number of years.

Katie Leonard, a Denver native just returned after graduating from Harvard with a degree in African-American studies, said at the time that it 'really felt like a fork in my side. This is a historically black neighborhood. Five Points was known as the Harlem of the West.

'Coming home after four years of being in college, it's unreal to see the changes that have happened in a short time.'

ink! posted a statement on its Facebook page. It read: 'Hmmm. We clearly drank too much of our own product and lost sight of what makes our community great.

'We sincerely apologize for our street sign. Our (bad) joke was never meant to offend our vibrant and diverse community. We should know better. We hope you will forgive us.'

Braniff: Airline flies by the seat of its pants with racy ad

Texan airline Braniff wanted to show off its luxury leather seats with a glitzy campaign in 1987

But its slogan 'fly in leather' was literally translated into Spanish as 'fly naked'

If conducting a global advertising campaign, it's a good idea to ensure nothing gets lost in translation.

In 1987, Texan airline Braniff launched a media blitz boasting passengers could 'fly in leather' on its luxury seats.

For its Spanish version, it used a literal translation of 'in leather' - 'en cuero' - but the similar 'en cueros' is a homophone for 'naked'.

So any mention of the slogan on radio or TV sounded like Braniff was telling its customers it could 'fly naked' - surely an appealing notion to some, but perhaps not what the company was aiming for.

The advert in Spanish-language newspapers, however, suggested the hidden meaning might have been intentional.

It showed a leather seat from behind, but not enough to tell if the passenger was wearing any clothes.

Braniff denied it was deliberate, but refused to change their campaign, claiming it was 'not an offensive thing'.

...and how 'Got Milk?' shows how to do it properly

The 'Got Milk?' campaign is perhaps one of the most famous success stories of American advertising

The milk mustache celebrity ad campaign superimposed milk mustaches on President Clinton and challenger Bob Dole's portraits in an advertisement being displayed in the United States election eve, Monday Nov.4,1996

David Beckham went shirtless for the campaign in 2006

It wasn't just celebrities that took part in the ad over the last 20 years ...

But - due to cultural sensitivities - the Got Milk? slogan was never released in its Spanish-language campaigns due to an embarrassing translation that could have alienated Latino communities - a significant market. The above grab is from a Spanish version of the advert

The 'Got Milk?' campaign is perhaps one of the most famous success stories of American advertising.

But the slogan, created by Goodby, Silverstein & Partners in San Francisco, nearly ran into disaster before it got going - had it not been for an eagle-eyed executive.

The unfortunate Spanish translation asks a very different question: 'Are You Lactating?'

Thankfully, Anita Santiago, a veteran of the industry who worked exclusively in Spanish, was on hand to tell the California Milk Processor Board, for whom the campaign was made, of this discrepancy.

The 'Got Milk?' ads, if directed at Latino consumers, 'could have gone terribly wrong', Santiago said in 2001.

As it was, since the launch of the campaign in 1993, there was a separate, more traditional pitch for milk in Spanish-language media, which reached millions in the Latino community in California, including more than a million who lived in the Bay Area.

Santiago designed the first Spanish campaign for the board, with the tagline, 'Y Usted Les Dio Suficiente Leche Hoy?' (Have You Given Them Enough Milk Today?'

These ads incorporated traditional Latino milk recipes and played on the emotional and cultural bonds of Latinos to milk. They directly targeted mothers and/or grandmothers.

Another adapted slogan was 'Familia, Amor y Leche' - Family, Love and Milk.


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