Biggest Marketing Fails Of 2017 #SMESABestOf2017

Updated on 26 December 2017

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This year we saw big brands make even bigger marketing fails and land in hot water as a result.

Brands like Nivea, Dove and OUTsurance are just a few who ran marketing campaigns that were accused of being racist, insensitive or just plain offensive.

Here are the 7 marketing blunders that caused the most outrage online:

1. DOVE 

Dove Ad2 - marketing blunders

One of the most talked-about marketing missteps of 2017 was by global cosmetics giant Dove.

A short video ad for the brand’s body wash was posted on its US Facebook page depicting a black woman taking off a brown T-shirt and transforming into a white woman after using the product.

The ad was accused by many on social media of being racist. The company apologised and removed the social media post.

According to a Business Insider article, the offending ad’s message went against the company’s 13-year-old “Real Beauty” campaign.


Nivea caused similar outrage on social media for their advert featuring former Miss Nigeria Omowunmi Akinnifesi. The ad appeared in Nigeria, Ghana, Cameroon and Senegal and shows Akinnifesi’s skin turning lighter after applying the brand’s lotion, and her claiming that the lotion also makes her feel younger.

According to Times Live, Nivea posted this ad on its Facebook page. The campaign was targeted at their West African and Middle Eastern markets. The company pulled the ad for being misleading, according to a spokesman for the company.


On Father’s Day, OUTsurance aired an ad that featured mostly white fathers, which in turn caused their social media followers to react negatively and brand the ad as racist, according to an SME South Africa article.

A number of Twitter users criticised the insurer and threatened to cancel their policies arguing that the campaign wasn’t representative of South Africa’s demographics.


Earlier this year, Pepsi released an ad that depicted model and reality TV star Kendall Jenner joining a protest and offering a can of Pepsi to a police officer. However, the brand was accused of trivialising the Black Lives Matter protests over police killings of black people, and received a lot of backlash on social media.


adidas-boston-marathon-email - marketing blunder

Earlier this year, following the 2017 Boston Marathon, Adidas sent out an email to its mailing list with the subject line: “Congrats, you survived the Boston Marathon!”. A tweet was also posted with the same message.While no reference was made by Adidas to the 2013 bombing at the Boston Marathon, people criticised the message for what they saw as insensitivity, according to Huffington Post South Africa.

The company apologised and removed the tweet from their page.


Uber - marketing blunders

Uber came under fire following the issuing of an immigration ban by US president Donald Trump in January this year which saw New York City residents take to the streets to protest the action.

Uber suspended their “surge” pricing during the protests. According to an article by Business Insider, many people regarded Uber’s move as an attempt to undermine the strike, and began deleting Uber from their phones and posting the evidence to Facebook and Twitter using the hashtag #DeleteUber.

The company issued an apology and explained the reason behind their actions, stating that they wanted to assure people that they could use Uber to get to and from JFK airport at the standard price despite the protests.


mcdonalds dead dad ad - marketing blunders

Earlier this year, McDonalds was slammed for using in their ads, a boy’s dead father to sell burgers, according to UK publication Mirror.

The ad, since pulled, was widely criticised on social media for exploiting child bereavement solely to push a brand name. The fast food chain aired an apology in which they said the ad did not go as planned, and they had pulled it from all media, including TV and cinema.

“It was never our intention to cause any upset. We are particularly sorry that the advert may have disappointed those people who are most important to us – our customers,” a spokesperson for McDonalds said.


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