A Look Back at 2015: The Biggest Marketing Fails of the Year

Although it is just the first week of November, it's never too early to look back at the year that was and examine some of the marketing trends and failures from 2015. In this particular post, we're going to look for the valuable lessons that businesses large and small can learn from some of the biggest marketing fails of the past year.

Budweiser's Slogan Fail

We have discussed in previous posts the value of tweaking your marketing schemes to capitalize on social and cultural trends. The most obvious examples are when companies change brand colors to pink or yellow in support of breast cancer research and testicular cancer research, respectively. Other times companies will introduce new slogans designed to catch on with social and cultural movements.

Then there are cases such as Budweiser's new slogan for Bud Light that many deemed "offensive," "rapey," and "lecherous." What was the offending slogan? "The perfect beer for removing 'no' from your vocabulary for the night." This was accompanied by Bud Light's primary slogan, "the perfect beer for whatever happens." Whatever Budweiser's intentions were, consumers pounced immediately by pointing out that the new slogan seemed to promote a rape culture. With so many instances of violent sexual offenses, on college campuses in particular, the new slogan struck the wrong chord at the worst possible time.

What you should take from this: Be extremely careful before adopting new slogans or hashtags. Ensure your new promotions cannot be construed as running against popular social and cultural movements of the time.

Heinz' QR Code Fail

QR codes have increased in visibility in recent years. Products on supermarket shelves and even displays during live sporting events on television encourage consumers to scan the code to find out more about a product, or be redirected to a replay of a live event. Heinz used QR codes on ketchup bottles to encourage consumers in Germany to create new labels for the company's product.

What Heinz failed to do next was twofold. When the contest ended, the QR codes remained on bottles. Worse, they allowed the domain name to lapse, and it was subsequently purchased by a German company producing online adult entertainment. Needless to say, consumers were not directed to a label-creation competition site when they scanned their QR codes.

What you should take from this: If you're going to use QR codes in a promotion, you need to be certain of the destination and maintain control of that domain for as long as those QR codes are appearing on bottles. Test the links time and again before those bottles appear on supermarket shelves.

Amazon's Prime Day, #PrimeDayFail

Just a few short weeks ago Amazon promised to deliver a consumer boost to the economy with a day of shopping and deals that would make Black Friday retailers blush. In the end, the world only got a new hashtag out of the ordeal with #PrimeDayFail. Amazon's hope was to boost the number of users with an Amazon Prime account, which of course costs money on an annual basis.

The company promised consumers deals that would equal those of Black Friday, and was able to generate significant buzz ahead of Prime Day. What consumers really got was a treasure trove of junk offered by the online retailer that was neither interesting nor offered at a significant discount.

What you should take from this: If you're going to promote special deals and generate buzz with hashtags in advance, you had better deliver on those promises. Amazon's #PrimeDay hashtag quickly turned to #PrimeDayFail once consumers realized what they were actually offered.

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