CLOSE
Subscribe to The Marketing Scope Newsletter
MENU

The Top Marketing Fails of 2015

marketing-fails-upsetIf your marketing campaign somehow encourages rape, makes light of a serious disease or disaster, or leads unsuspecting consumers to porn sites, it’s safe to say it’s probably not your best work. In fact, you can expect some angry customers and possibly even legal action. Oh yeah, and you’ll end up on a list of the top marketing fails of the year! Here’s a look at the brands that managed this feat in 2015.

Bud Light – “Up for Whatever”

These days, anything that suggests that no means yes is a definite no-no. But apparently Bud Light didn’t get that memo, since its slogan this year was “The perfect beer for removing ‘no’ from your vocabulary.” Obviously that gives off a rapey vibe, and the accompanying #UpForWhatever hashtag didn’t help, so people took to social media to complain. Luckily, Budweiser soon saw the error of its ways and apologized for this marketing fail.

Bloomingdale’s – “Spike your best friend’s eggnog”

2015 seemed to be the year of oblivious brands making light of rape, with Bloomingdale’s only adding to this disturbing trend. The big brand saw fit to add an image to its catalog that showed a woman looking away from a man, with the caption “Spike your best friend’s eggnog when they’re not looking.” Once disgusted consumers complained, Bloomingdale’s quickly tossed out an apology on Twitter. Hopefully the next catalog is free of such gaffes.

Heinz – QR code led to porn site

This story really began a few years ago, when Heinz created a contest for its German customers. The company asked them to make their own labels for the ketchup bottles, and they could see them via a handy QR code that led to a website. Once the contest was over in 2014, an adult entertainment company bought the domain name. When one unlucky Heinz customer stumbled upon the website after following the QR code in 2015, he was surprised to see porn. Once he let Heinz know about the issue, the brand apologized to him and offered a personalized ketchup bottle, which is a little odd. But the owner of the porn site made it weirder by following that up with an offer for a free one-year subscription to the site. It’s not clear whether the customer actually accepted either offer.

Target – “OCD: Obsessive Christmas Disorder”

Target tried to get cute before Christmas by selling a red sweater that said “OCD: Obsessive Christmas Disorder.” Not surprisingly, this didn’t go over well with people who understand that obsessive compulsive disorder is serious, not fun and festive. Though Target did apologize, the retailer never did pull the sweaters off shelves. They’re probably on sale by now, though, for anyone who wants to advertise some insensitivity this winter.

Starbucks – “Race Together”

Always trying to be a force for good, Starbucks attempted to soothe racial tension by encouraging customers to talk to their baristas about the issue. But realizing that this could go horribly wrong – likely resulting in arguments and super long lines – customers complained about the idea. As a result, Starbucks shut down this tactic after just six days. It was worth a try, Starbucks, but honestly most people are just looking for a caffeine fix and a cookie – not a philosophical discussion – when they saunter into a coffee shop.

Well, you win some, you lose some, and that’s what these brands likely learned after these marketing fails occurred. Also, hopefully they learned to run their ideas by a few more people before cementing their next marketing campaign. Otherwise, we’ll probably see them again on the list of marketing fails in 2016!

Did you see any other examples of big brands embarrassing themselves with marketing fails this year?