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Marketing Campaigns that fell flat

In a world where Social Media and information sharing have become the norm. The Advertising Industry is adapting and crafting their art to pace with the evolving methods of brand presence. The amount of information that we access at such an unprecedented pace, causes us to see too many Ads. So much so that we lose track of brands and products that we loved so dearly once upon a time. Some would say that any marketing is good marketing. Yet, marketing experts and brands would differ in their opinion and strive to serve their consumers the best they can.

Here are a few examples of marketing campaigns and Ads that failed to make an impact. You are sure to learn valuable lessons from their mistakes. And hopefully, get a head start at crafting successful marketing campaigns.

1. Don’t Overdo – Dove’s Real Beauty Bottles

Dove’s products have been in the market for a long time and they have been known to stroke positive beauty while advertising their products. However, the 2017 ad released for the Ad campaign ‘Real Beauty’ lost the winning streak. Dove’s ad in the summer of 2017 titled ‘Real Beauty Bottles’ got the attention of users from Social Media. With a tagline that beauty comes in all shapes and sizes, a video of manufacturing body wash bottles for every body type was made and broadcasted. Though the message seems to echo body positivity, many consumers didn’t buy in the idea and expressed their disappointment on social media.

Image credit: The Drum

The Marketeers seem to have overreached on this ad and missed connecting with the audience. Many consumers expressed that classifying people into shapes or sizes of a bottle wasn’t a good idea. Some even criticized the bottle’s colors as they were all white and didn’t accommodate all skin tones.

Official promotional video via YouTube.

A lesson to learn is that though your intentions might be right, what others perceive of it may not. Dove’s real beauty bottles were a classic example of how overdoing something tends to backfire. At these times, it is best to step into the customer’s shoes and see if you would buy the idea yourself.

2. Leveling Up Never Comes With A Downgrade – OLX’s Breakup Challenge

OLX’s 6-month breakup challenge was an intriguing attempt at asking the users to break-up with stuff that they  have not used for more than 6 months. The online marketplace took to twitter to introduce the campaign with a little bit of mystery. Which of course, got many users’ attention. OLX made a clever attempt at grabbing the people’s attention by locking access to the Ad only to those who shared the mystery post. This way, they were able to capture the engagement on the micro-blogging platform and make their brand presence felt.

Though the campaign was successful in getting the people to talk about the ad. It didn’t however, perform a full cycle. With mediocre content used in the film, it failed to fan the flames of emotions amongst its users to take action. The persuasiveness message of the campaign seems to have died a slow and painful death as it couldn’t hold to its brand image of ‘Bech De’. Which was something that was portrayed in its other Ads with much clarity. Also, Olx has been known to set a higher benchmark with its content marketing, which the break-up challenge failed to achieve. And hence, though the impact on the audience was effective, the call to action was ineffective. Leaving the online marketplace back to square one.

3. Think Glocal And Not Only Local – Cadbury Unity Bar

A lot of times people misinterpret what we want to convey. One such instance was the marketing campaign by Cadbury India. Cadbury which had all the right intentions to display a diverse India through the Chocolate Bar faced severe criticism from its international consumers. The ‘Unity Bar’ was launched to mark the celebration of the 73rd independence day and reiterate the country’s display of unity in diversity. The ad campaign was promoted through different mediums. The front page of the economic times woke to a full-page ad that was printed in the native languages of Andhra, Maharastra, and Karnataka on different editions. The ad followed its copy that “The headline above is not a misprint. It is in Kannada/Telugu/Marathi. It says – Sweet things happen, when we unite.”

The peak of the ad was that they had printed a Kannada headline in the Mumbai edition, Telugu headline in the Delhi edition, and Marathi headline in the Bangalore edition. This attracted a lot of social media hype to the brand and appreciated the efforts of their marketing strategy by some Indian users. However, some twitter users from around the world mocked the chocolate bar for being racist and a mockery of ending racism.

The Unity Bar, a chocolate bar that stitched different shades of chocolate starting with white on the top and darker shades at the bottom, attracted many twitter users from around the world mocking its concept. Most of the comments mocked the bar on the lines of racism and disturbed their international brand image. Later, Cadbury UK took to Twitter to clear the misconception. A lesson to draw here is, to analyze the outcome at all levels. And if it’s a global brand, think globally and see how it pans out locally. Although the efforts to capture a few Indian hearts sure did get traction, the brand did take some amount of damage with this fiasco.

4. Stop Digging When You Are Already In A Hole – Snapdeal’s Rebranding Campaign

Another popularly known brand is starting to bite the dust after its ineffective marketing campaign. For online shoppers, it wouldn’t be a surprise that the e-commerce website hasn’t been at its very best lately. The company had received a lot of complaints about receiving the wrong products, like soaps instead of cellphones. Though the reason behind the decline in the number of users isn’t clear. The poorly performing business started going downhill when a lot of employees lost jobs to cut costs and save the business. Which in turn brought down the brand’s image leading to people using the e-commerce website less.

The efforts to revive the brand added additional costs of around 200 cores to their already dipping figures. With the launch of the rebranding campaign ‘Unbox Zindagi’ during the Diwali season.

Image via

The company’s focus was to increase its sales in the fashion apparel segment and recover from the damage. Little did they know that recovering from downfall after burning a hole of 200 cores might not have been the best decision they made. To see if their rebranding efforts recover their damage is still in question as they are still struggling to climb up the ladder. Snapdeal spent an enormous amount of money for the rebranding project when their ledgers were already bleeding red. It is always important to use the big buck when you are at a better standing with your finances.

5. Don’t Desensitize Serious Issues – Starbucks #RaceTogether Campaign

In March of 2015, Starbucks launched their broadest initiatives ever. It started out as forum discussions in the Starbucks HQ in Washington and led to the Campaign ‘RaceTogether’. The campaign was aimed at initiating conversations and discussions around race with customers. The Baristas were asked to write #RaceTogether on every coffee cup that went out and were encouraged to have conversations about race. Although some would say that it was a great initiative. There are many that would disagree and criticize the fortune 500 company for being insensitive.

Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz who was the man behind the initiative, faced severe criticism and the backlash of the marketing campaign. Customers took to social media and hurled insults at the brand for appropriating serious issues for economic gain. People got angry at how lowly, insensitive, and hypocritical the brand was. The people felt the brand was preaching about something that they themselves never practiced. And after repeated apologies from various heads of the management, the campaign was taken down.

We will never know if the CEO genuinely felt the need to initiate this campaign to discuss and keep the conversation on race going. However, what we do know is to be a brand that is sensitive to social issues and not use them for any economic gain.

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