With all eyes on digital media, consumers are constantly watching brands’ every move. Perfect for brand awareness! Or is it?

Competition is stiff out there and marketing trends are constantly evolving. Brands want to please everyone in order to gain more customers, marketing mistakes are inevitable with this approach.

Here are a few big brands who missed the mark and their (costly) marketing efforts backfired, creating awareness as some of the biggest marketing disasters in the history of marketing mistakes.

1. Coca-Cola

The age-old debate of which sugary drink reigns supreme. Pepsi or Cola? 

In 1975 Pepsi (boldly and successfully) launched a “Pepsi Challenge ”, where volunteers blindly taste-tested two different sodas and chose which one they preferred. The results were in and the winner was Pepsi, resulting in more sales for Pepsi. Coke had to do some damage control of course, and in 1985 the company decided to change the classic Coke formula. Coke then launched their ‘new and improved product, named ‘New Coke’. Queue instant backlash…Coke’s sales dropped significantly and just a few months later, Coke announced that they will be returning the classic, original Coke formula.  

The lesson: With millions of dollars poured into research, development, marketing, and advertising, people were not convinced. New isn’t always better. If you make a mistake, honesty is always the best policy, even in marketing. Especially in marketing. Admit you were wrong and correct your mistake. 

2. Pepsi

We’re starting to notice a trend with soft drinks…

Remember the one where Kendal Jenner dissolved tension between protesters and police by offering an officer a can of Pepsi in 2017?  It created an immediate backlash and was dubbed tone-deaf, causing Pepsi to pull the ad and apologize. 

The lesson: Isn’t politics one of the 3 (now 4) topics that just aren’t discussed? 

3. Fiat

As romantic as Italy is they got this one wrong…

The Italian car company launched a campaign in 1994, set out to engage with their Spanish customers. Fiat sent out 50,000 anonymous love letters to young women in Spain. The idea was to then send out a second letter a few days later declaring the love letter is from the Fiat Cinquecento… The letters along the lines of “we met again on the street yesterday and I noticed how you glanced interestedly in my direction.” The initial letter had conjured feelings of fear rather than curiosity and scared the young women so much that the follow-up letter was never sent. 

The lesson: There’s a fine line between curiosity and creating dread. 

4. Ford

Sometimes, we’re our own worst enemy…

The Edsel was only made for two years, but cost the company 250 million dollars, way more than what Ford ever made from the Edsel. At the launch, the car was very expensive and did not live up to the marketing hype. Essentially, the Edsel competed against other Ford models but did not offer anything new, however, it matched the price of other Ford models. 

The Lesson: Don’t cannibalize and don’t compete with yourself, unless your new product offers something new.

5. Calvin Klein

Sometimes there is such a thing as bad press…

Before Justin Bieber, there was Marky Mark. To this day Calvin Klein is synonymous with…raunchier…ads, but in 1995 the company received backlash for showing underaged kids in provocative positions. While parents strongly condemned this campaign, it, strangely enough, proved popular with younger consumers. And even more strangely, a new campaign was released in 199 with even younger children…But this time around, the backlash was so strong that the company had pulled the ads within 24 hours. Hello, list of marketing mistakes. 

The Lesson: Just because something worked before, doesn’t mean it will work again. Especially something controversial. 

 Controversy doesn’t always mean success. 

6. Dr. Pepper

Welcome to the jungle…

In 2008 the company announced that they would give a free can of Dr. Pepper to everyone in the USA if Guns N’ Roses released their much-anticipated album (that’s been in talks since 1994) that same year. Surprise, surprise, Chinese Democracy dropped that November. Staying true to their word, the company attempted to honour their promise and set up a website where people could redeem a coupon for their free can. The issue? Many could not download the coupon, which led to lead singer Axl Rose demanding an apology from Dr. Pepper. 

The lesson: Careful what you wish for, but most importantly, don’t make promises and offers you cannot keep.

Many marketing mistakes can be pointed to the fact that marketers forget who they’re marketing to. It’s easy to take your eye off the prize when you want to create a unique or memorable ad. Focus on your audience and your goal, and the rest will follow!

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