2016 has been an interesting year full of surprising twists and turns, especially for some brands that had a few moments of bad judgment. And thanks to the internet, these moments did not go unnoticed by the rest of the world, which is why we have this year’s list of marketing fails! The good news is that none of the brands from last year’s list returned. The bad news is that there are still several brands that make some really questionable decisions when it comes to marketing. Take a look at some of the most memorable marketing fails of 2016.
Microsoft came up with the great idea to make an AI bot that would tweet and learn more words by interacting with Twitter users. While Microsoft certainly had good intentions, the team didn’t account for trolls on Twitter, who quickly taught the bot – named Tay – to tweet several offensive, racist, and sexist statements.
And it took less than a day for Tay to go from nice to rude, which is a true testament to the power of Twitter trolls. At any rate, Microsoft hastily deleted the tweets and paused any further development of the chatbot. Probably a good idea.
In its excitement to release its newest video game in October, publisher EA Games made up a new hashtag for the occasion, as brands often do. Only this one was a bit insensitive, since the hashtag for Battlefield 1 – which has a World War I theme – was #JustWWIThings. To make this worse, one of the first tweets that EA Games posted with this hashtag was “When you’re too hot for the club,” with an in-game screenshot of a soldier on fire. Yeah.
Not surprisingly, the brand quickly removed the tweets, apologized, and stopped using the hashtag. But that didn’t stop other Twitter users from continuing to use the offending hashtag to describe the horrors of real war, so at least some awareness came out of this marketing fail. And the game itself ended up receiving great reviews despite EA’s marketing goof, so there’s that.
Many residents of Russia were not very happy with Coca-Cola when the brand made a beautiful holiday-themed map for social media. That’s because it just happened to leave out a few areas, including Kaliningrad, a city that has been part of Russia for over 70 years. The map also left out the Kuril Islands and Crimea. So once Coca-Cola became aware of the criticism from Russians, the brand put out a new map that depicted all of these areas.
But this only served to upset Ukrainians, because it turns out Crimea is a hotly contested area that Russia only annexed from Ukraine a few years ago. The issue is clearly still a sore spot for people in both countries. Once the Coca-Cola social media team figured out it had no chance of creating a map that would please both audiences, it apologized and deleted the map entirely. The good news is the marketing fail did spawn a new hashtag: #BanCocaCola. Oh wait. That might be the bad news.
As the 15th anniversary of 9/11 approached, one Texas mattress store was apparently having trouble coming up with advertising ideas. So the manager decided to capitalize on a date everyone would remember and offer a huge sale in September.
Yes, that’s right, the store did the unthinkable and posted a video ad to Facebook advertising its “twin tower sale” in which you could get a mattress of any size for a “twin price.” The ad ended with two employees falling back against two piles of mattresses while screaming, leaving viewers thinking something along the lines of “Wow. Just wow.”
Early in 2016, Total Beauty tweeted a picture of Whoopi Goldberg at the Oscars with the caption “We had no idea Oprah was #tatted, and we love it.” Whoops. Not surprisingly, people were offended on their behalf.
Of course, the brand removed the tweet less than an hour later and issued an apology. But the damage was likely done, considering some people probably lost trust in a beauty website that couldn’t tell two famous faces apart.
Did you see any of these marketing fails in action, or did you spot any others throughout 2016?