8 of the Worst Marketing Faux Pas

In Customer Engagement, Featured on App, Marketing and Sales by Vaughn Highfield


Marketing, love it or hate it (although we're assuming if you're here you love it) you have to admit that there are some absolutely genius campaigns out there that you just wish you could have thought of.

Then, there are those that you're incredibly glad that you didn't come up with.

Here are ten rather incredible marketing mistakes, mistakes that raise the question "how on Earth did they believe this would be a good move?"

And no, this isn't another list topped by ‘New Coke'.


1. White PSP Bilboard Adverts

Year: 2006

Company: Sony

Sony were bringing a white version of their PlayStation portable console out to accompany the black livery that arrived on the consoles launch.

Their decision to market it was a little bit more than insensitive.



2. Big Mac Depression Advert

Year: 2013

Company: McDonalds

Despite claiming that this advert was an accident and wasn't intended for public release, this McDonalds ad that prays on the difficult subject of depression made its way out into the public sphere and received a ton of – rather understandable – backlash.

Depression mcdonalds


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3. Pepsi Slims

Year: 2011

Company: Pepsi

During the New York Fashion Week, Pepsi thought it would be smart to redesign their Diet Pepsi can as a ‘skinny can' as "the perfect compliment to today's most stylish looks". As you can expect the National Eating Disorders Association lashed out at the campaign that seemingly endorsed the ‘skinny is beautiful' thought  process.

Diet Pepsi skinny can


4. Bullet in the Chamber Advert

Year: 2013

Company: Nike

What once seemed like a great advert for Nike, Oscar Pistorius and a way to connect with the disabled consumer backfired (excuse the pun) when the slogan "I am the bullet in the chamber" rung true after reports that Pistorius had shot his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp. Naturally, Nike pulled the adverts – one of which adorned an entire web page – from existence.

Pistorius Bullet


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5. Aqua Teen Hunger Force Boston Ads

Year: 2007

Company: Turner Broadcasting System

The TBS Adult Swim cartoon Aqua Teen Hunger Force was decidedly marketed by going around Boston and placing up LED light boards around the city in some sort of pseudo gonzo street-art attempt. Needless to say, the display of one of the shows characters swearing at the world probably wasn't a smart move. Surprisingly, the real issue came when Bostonians called the police – triggering a bomb scare in the city.

Aqua Teen Hunuger Force


6. Dead Island Riptide Zombie Bait Edition

Year: 2013

Company:  Deep Silver UK

Everybody loves collector's editions of a game, film or album right? Well, when it came to Deep Silver's newest zombie slashing, tropical island getaway from hell title Dead Island: Riptide the UK team decided on the ultimate prize: a human torso of a woman. Not just any woman though, a dismembered and rotting one – albeit hand painted and handcrafted individually – intended to be ‘zombie bait'

As you can imagine, it didn't sit too well with many members of the public due to it's crass nature, sexist undertones and disturbing bosom. If anything, it would just make passionate video game enthusiasts look more pubescent and out of touch. Good thing they fought back and got this taken off the shelves before it even made it there.

Dead Island Riptide Zombie Bait


7. In An Absolut World Advert

Year: 2008

Company: Absolut Vodka

Not only was this advert insensitive to a nation, it also didn't bother to check its promotional timing too well. Swedish vodka company Absolut ran an advert depicting the borders of Mexico as they were back in 1848 – before America muscled its way in to take it over. The move, designed to help celebrate Mexican national pride fell flat when many Mexicans felt – especially Mexican-American and Hispanic-American extremists – that the message was really saying that Absolut would help get Mexico back to how it once was.

It also didn't do Absolut any favours when the advert released just at the same time as tensions were rising between the US and Mexican border, with the US beefing up security and aiming to combat illegal immigration. As expected, it backfired.

Absolut Mexico


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8. Calvin Klein Jeans

Year: 1990

Company: Calvin Klein

How do you sell jeans to a generation? Well, Calvin Klein went for the obvious (read: not obvious) answer of the rhyming word teen. That's right, the paraded clearly underage individuals around in jeans looking sultry. That's not too bad when you think that most adverts do this, and these folks are probably on the 17 age bracket.

The trouble starts when you quickly realise this is some perverted ‘casting couch' gonzo video for a porno audition. The lecherous narrator – who is also the cameraman – asks questions while actors strut their stuff in a dingy wood-panelled room. Needless to say, the adverts were pulled.