Any publicity is good publicity, right? In the case of these marketing campaigns, that maxim may need to be re-examined. These companies set out to solidify their brand, using unique marketing campaigns to make names for themselves. Well they certainly did that, just not quite as intended.
From Nazi symbols to pool party disasters, here are some of the biggest marketing fails from major corporations in recent years.
Urban Outfitters Holocaust Tapestry
In 2015, Urban Outfitters horrified customers with their decision to sell a tapestry reminiscent of the uniform gay prisoners were forced to wear in Nazi concentration camps. Whilst the pink triangle has since been reclaimed as a symbol of the international homosexual rights movement, the move to sell this product provoked rebuke amongst consumers, NGOs and social commentators alike. Although Urban Outfitters never denied or confirmed the accusations, many assumed the worst as the fashion retailer had a proclivity for controversy. Three years earlier they were under fire for selling a yellow t-shirt with a star, (similar to the Star of David) on the breast pocket; another move invoking thoughts of the holocaust.
Amazon’s Nazi Faux Pas
While Urban Outfitters Nazi controversy may have been inadvertent, Amazon’s marketing campaign was blatant in its desire for attention. The online show they were promoting, Man in the High Castle, is based in an alternate reality where the Axis powers won the Second World War and had subsequently divided control over the USA. Looking to flagrantly promote their new series, Amazon decorated the subway trains, walls and ceilings in New York with Nazi-style imagery. Mayor Bill de Blasio demanded Amazon to remove the advertisements as they were “irresponsible and offensive to World War II and Holocaust survivors, their families, and countless other New Yorkers.” Amazon recognised their mistake and agreed to remove all advertisements a few hours after the Mayor’s request.
Krispy Kreme: ‘Krispy Kreme Klub’
Corporate community programmes have traditionally been a great way for companies to directly interact with consumers and enhance their brand, whilst offering a free service or product in return. Krispy Kreme decided to create a week’s worth of fun activities for families to do over the half-term school break in Hull, England. Each day had a different theme and unfortunately, the famous doughnut chain decided to name Wednesday’s event ‘Krispy Kreme Klub’ or ‘KKK Wednesday’. It is astounding that no-one picked up the obvious connections to the infamously racist Ku Klux Klan white supremacist hate group, but apparently this one slipped through the net and was advertised via Facebook promotion and marketing materials. Although Krispy Kreme swiftly removed the advertisement and issued an apology, the damage was already done. Offended consumer responses, memes and Photoshop images of Ku Klux Klan members eating Krispy Kreme doughnuts spread through the internet like wildfire.
Jagermeister Pool Party Fiasco
Jagermeister has emerged as a popular party drink in recent years, particularly with young people and college students. So when the German company decided to set up a massive pool-party event in Leon, Mexico, they saw it as a no-lose situation. Unfortunately, things went south when event organisers thought it would be a ‘fun’ idea to dump a container of liquid nitrogen into the pool (assumingly to create a mist effect). The plan backfired, as the liquid nitrogen mixed with the chlorine in the pool and created a toxic gas called nitrogen trichloride. The effects were catastrophic as numerous partygoers fainted in the pool and fell ill from the fumes. Eight people were treated in hospital, and one man was in a coma for eighteen days! The local Attorney General and Mayor of Leon, subsequently launched an investigation into the incident. You don’t need a marketing degree to recognise that this was a marketing disaster for Jagermeister.
Bud Light:'Up for Whatever'
Marketing alcohol is like walking a tight-rope; one wrong step and you’ll meet your doom. Anheuser-Busch InBev, Budweiser’s parent company, found this out the hard way with their ‘Up for Whatever’ campaign. The Bud Light beer bottles labels contained the slogan- ‘The perfect beer for removing ‘no’ from your vocabulary for the night.” With obvious allusions to rape, the advertising caused uproar on social media and the #UpForWhatever was trending for all the wrong reasons, with many making accusations that the Bud Light campaign was promoting date-rape. Anheuser-Busch’s company spokesman published a statement admitting that the tagline had “missed the mark.” Nonetheless, the damage was done and negative connotations stuck with the brand, undoubtedly staining the company’s reputation.
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