Could you be making these avoidable marketing mistakes?

25th April 2024

Marketing mistakes aren’t confined to smaller businesses – sometimes they find their way into the big leagues.

Globally recognised companies all owe a large part of their fame to the power of marketing.

When done right, marketing can be the biggest factor when it comes to business growth, strong ROI and overall sales revenue. Take Apple for example, in 2022 they generated £3.8 billion ($4.7 billion) from ad revenue alone.

Effective marketing also has the power to increase your brand’s mindshare. When you think of sportswear, Nike and Adidas will likely spring to mind. With fast food, McDonalds will no doubt enter your thoughts.

With revenues in the billions, these huge brands must have a secret formula to their marketing, right? Nope.

These businesses no doubt have marketing teams that pour countless hours into their campaigns and for the most part, it pays off. But what happens when it doesn’t?

In this blog, we’ll look at some famous marketing faux pas – not to gloat, but to learn from them – and help your business avoid making the same mistakes.

Cultural (un)awareness

When it comes to marketing campaigns that failed to read the room, the Pepsi X Kendall Jenner advert was a particularly high-profile example.

The advert, which aired in 2017, depicted a group of protesters walking through the streets. Kendall Jenner joins the group and offers a police officer on the scene a Pepsi, defusing the tension between groups.

“…riding the coattails of a political movement founded by and for oppressed voices will always be seen to be in poor taste…”

At the time of airing, the Black Lives Matter protests were commencing around the globe, and viewers couldn’t help but notice the parallels drawn between the two. This didn’t work in Pepsi’s favour as people saw it as a trivialisation of a deep-rooted issue.

The backlash caused Pepsi to pull the advert – a sizeable blow to both budget and reputation. It just goes to show that – while it’s great to keep your marketing relevant – riding the coattails of a political movement founded by and for oppressed voices will always be seen to be in poor taste.

Our takeaway?
Always consider the political climate and check the news before you release an ad campaign into the wild (or sign off the budget).

If it ain’t broke…

Rebrands can offer huge potential for businesses. When a brand is becoming outdated, giving it a refresh grabs the attention of customers and, when done well, can attract new ones in the process.

Typically, in business, this kind of move is calculated, necessary and carefully takes into account the thoughts of the consumer. However, the same can’t be said of Gap’s 2010 rebrand…

In fact, it ended up costing them $100 million.

One reason this marketing stunt failed so spectacularly was that nobody was expecting it.

No prior announcements, launches, or updates were released. This meant that they hadn’t built up the necessary anticipation for such a big move. The logo change alone was so drastic it left people feeling bewildered at best.

Another major reason this change didn’t work out in Gap’s favour? They didn’t seem to have a reason to do it in the first place. With a loyal customer base spanning the globe, enviable revenue, and a famous brand identity, changing things up just didn’t seem to make sense.

“…while a rebrand could be just what your business needs, it must be underpinned by strategy…”

But alas, the change had been made and people were not happy. On top of the cost of the entire process, they were forced to revert to their old logo within less than a week.

So, while a rebrand could be just what your business needs, it must be underpinned by strategy, done with good reason, and signalled by pre-launch PR and marketing.

Our takeaway?
Always do your background research, build anticipation for the change, and make sure it aligns with the way your customers see you – they are, after all, the most important factor.

It’s not easy being green

Climate change is a very real and important issue that we currently face. Many businesses are aware of this and are making changes to reduce their impact and greenhouse gas emissions.

That’s why you’ll often hear businesses talk about their corporate social responsibility (CSR) or environmental, social and governance (ESG) initiatives.

It’s also why vehicles are tested to ensure emissions are aligned with regulations.

In 2015 the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found that tens of thousands of Volkswagen’s diesel cars produced in the US each year were cheating emissions tests. And this was after a huge marketing campaign touting the car’s low emissions.

“…it only takes one false claim to lose your customer’s trust…”

Thanks to a device that could detect when the car was being tested and alter the way it performed, the manufacturer was able to falsify recorded emissions.

This meant that the engines of these cars emitted nitrogen oxide up to 40 times greater than the permitted limit in the United States, without it showing up in test results.

Upon this scandal coming to light, not only did Volkswagen lose the trust of a large portion of their current and potential customers. It also meant that in October 2015, the company posted its first quarterly loss in 15 years, which was over £2 billion.

Volkswagen issued a public apology but in spite of efforts to rectify the damage, the scenario remains fresh in people’s minds.

Our takeaway?
It only takes one false claim to lose your customer’s trust. Which is exactly why it’s so important to ensure your business doesn’t get caught in any greenwashing grey areas (or outright deceptions, in this case).

If you want to find out more about greenwashing risks and how to so you can avoid them, explore our CSR marketing series.

Don’t get it twisted..

While we’ve only covered a handful of examples, marketing mistakes are all too common. And, as we’ve demonstrated, even some of the most famous brands in the world are not immune.

With the potential to cause a loss of revenues, customers, trust, and reputation, it’s important that all marketing and advertising campaigns are backed by strategy, and checked. And double checked. And triple checked.

Because once live, they can be near impossible to take back.

Nobody’s perfect, but we are thorough – both in strategy and quality assurance.

If you have a campaign idea you’d like to discuss, get in touch with our marketing team: [email protected].


About Proctor + Stevenson

Game-changing strategy, creative and technology that means more impact for your marketing. And more power to your business.

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