Marketing Mishaps 101

I’m a big fan of writing about current mishaps and mess-ups that I take note of in the press. Marketing is one of those things that has to be done right. If not, it has the capacity to possibly destroy your brand reputation and ultimately, cause business failure.

Here are some of the biggest marketing mess-ups of all time that i’ve took note of:

Ratners Jewelers and the sandwich comment


First on the list is Ratners Jewelers, or more so Gerald Ratner and the infamous slip of the tongue in which he referred to one of his products as “total crap” and then went on to compare it to the mediocre sandwich he’d just eaten. Why did he do it… I’m not too sure as to why, but one thing I am sure of is it made history in the wall of fame of marketing mess ups. The questionable comment saw the literal dissolution of the Ratner brand shortly thereafter and thus presents a life lesson for any business owner out there – don’t publicly slate your products (though i’m not sure you would anyway).

I can’t say the mishap was a total mistake though – Ratner still seems to be in the limelight even now. With him and his wife partaking in frequent interviews and with his new job as a public speaker, it would seem he successfully made light of his famed slip up in the end. 

Pepsi and that advert

Last year saw the – to put it bluntly – absolutely ridiculous marketing campaign executed (and butchered) by Pepsi and a collaboration with Kendall Jenner.


In the midst of of the black lives matter campaigns, Pepsi ‘oh-so-coincidentally’ dropped their advert (notice the sarcasm) which suggested that to quell a riot – all you need is a can of Pepsi (???). I think it’s safe to say the backlash was huge. Pepsi quickly (and smartly to give them credit) pulled the ad; yet the controversy stuck with the brand for quite some time. In fact, just a few days ago I saw an article on the ad, so it’s safe to say that the mishap is not truly dead and buried yet.

Of course, Pepsi is a huge brand and in the grander scheme of things, this was never going to be business-destroying for them. Months on, the brand’s reputation has not yet recovered wholly from the slip up but ultimately – it would take something a lot bigger than this to dissolve this organisation completely. 

Dove and another controversial campaign

Dove and their apparent 15 year strong “real beauty” campaign has come under fire in recent years following one slip up after another… First there was the ‘before and after’ ad, which showcased the women involved in a pattern so that the lighter the skin, the closer they were to the ‘after’ sign. (Some thought this was suggestive that lighter is beautiful and the backlash of course followed).


Then followed the T-Shirt stunt, and more recently: an ad in which the bottles were warped in to varying shapes and sizes with the message that women’s bodies are diverse and beautiful. The bottles were set to be on sale as limited edition products, but were soon ridiculed on social media, with those offended contending that it is rude and obnoxious to compare womens bodies to shapeless plastic products. I’m not too sure on this one, what do you think?


Dove has always been a strong and thriving brand, yet in recent years – controversial mistakes seem to be a reoccurring theme for them. They’re a strong company with an equally strong reputation, yet Dove need to be careful with their marketing standards if they want their brand image to continue to be positively construed. One mishap is not enough to destroy a large company, but one after the other and they may need to be more careful… 

H&M and the ‘racist’ hoodie

This recent mishap credited itself it’s whole own post on my blog a few weeks back, yet I couldn’t go without mentioning it here also. After an eagle eyed shopper noticed a black child wearing a ‘coolest monkey in the jungle’ hoodie on their online site and shared it angrily to social media, the backlash that H&M has faced has been groundbreaking.


Opinions were mixed, and some (including myself) were not too sure whether this was simply a poor product placement that was construed in the wrong light. Others however, have been outraged and have took it upon themselves to boycott H&M. Since, the stores have been trashed and some have even been forced to close in the best interests of the staff.

Whether you believe it portrays racial tendencies or not, its safe to say that this has been huge for H&M, and this backlash is the kind that isn’t something so easily recoverable from. The brand is undeniably still damaged and H&M will have to work hard to recover their reputation. Could the brand be on the slow burn journey to failure? Possibly, H&M is going to have to seriously work hard to come back from this – many are still profusely refusing to ever shop in the store again. 

Uber – a literal PR nightmare


Forget going from strength to strength, Uber has gone from failure to failure recently. With their cabs actually being pulled from London due to mounting rape allegations.

Also, the rape allegations unfortunately are not constricted to London alone. There have been numerous allegations made nationwide and frankly, it’s not looking good for the company.

Uber has also come under fire surrounding legal battles as well as allegations of sexual discrimination…

It was discovered that prospective drivers are going to be made to take english tests, and, on Feb 20th of this year, the Court of Appeal will hear Uber’s appeal against the plan. The company argues that tens of thousands of private hire drivers could lose their jobs if the tests go ahead.

Alongside rape cases and legal batters, Uber are also facing yet another problem. A contention by a female worker that she has been discriminated against because of her gender, claiming that their security protocols put not only her, but other women at risk too. Sexual discrimination accompanied by court cases, not looking good is it – Uber?

Not only this, but shortly thereafter it was unearthed that Uber has actually been spying on their main competitors: Lyft. Uber created fake Lyft customer accounts to surveil its drivers, track their behavior, identify them, and figure out which were driving for both apps. Having to pull your services from the most popular city in the UK, sexually discriminating, being involved in legal disputes and being busted for spying on your staff and competitors – this company is the epitome of a PR nightmare and frankly, I don’t think they’re going to recover.

In a desperate bid to salvage their reputation, Uber hired Rachel Whetstone – a PR superstar who actually departed Uber shortly thereafter –  in the end, she simply wasn’t able to shift the company’s fundamental problems.

Uber’s irrational patterns and mistakes are alarming and to put it frankly – they need to step up quickly if they want to survive. 

NYPD and the perfect example of ‘expectations v reality’

Social media is so important in this day and age and consequently, so is what you put on it. NYPD didn’t expect the replies they got when putting out what seemed like a lighthearted engagement tweet…


They replies they got were unexpected by their marketing team to say the least…


Brands, organisations and businesses need to be aware that social media is a freedom of speech platform and what goes out on it (more often than not) stays out. NYPD would have had no control over their replies to the tweet, therefore this was a huge no-go for them and I certainly would expect them to have learned from their mistakes moving forward.

3 thoughts on “Marketing Mishaps 101”

  1. Pingback: A Bear-y Bad Idea

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