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  • Joshua Taylor

Marketing Fails: Learning from the Funniest Examples in Marketing

Mistakes are bound to happen. From social media blunders to ill-conceived ad campaigns, marketing fails can be embarrassing, costly, and even damaging to a brand's reputation. But these fails can also be a valuable source of learning for marketers, providing insights on what not to do in the future.


One classic example of a marketing fail occurred when KFC launched a new slogan in China. The slogan, "Finger-Lickin' Good" was translated to "Eat Your Fingers Off" in Mandarin, resulting in confusion and horror among Chinese consumers. While the mistake was costly in terms of branding, it also highlights the importance of cultural sensitivity and localization when marketing to global audiences.


Another notable fail occurred when McDonald's launched a Twitter campaign using the hashtag #McDStories, encouraging customers to share their positive experiences with the brand. Unfortunately, the hashtag was quickly hijacked by dissatisfied customers, who used it to share horror stories and criticisms of the fast-food chain. While this fail was costly in terms of PR, it also highlights the importance of careful planning and risk management when launching social media campaigns.



In 2013, JCPenney attempted to rebrand and appeal to a younger audience by eliminating their usual sales and coupons strategy. Instead, they introduced "fair and square pricing," where all items would have everyday low prices. However, this strategy backfired as customers felt they were not getting the same deals and discounts they were used to. JCPenney lost millions of dollars and had to bring back their old sales strategy. This marketing fail emphasizes the importance of understanding customer behavior and preferences before making major changes to a brand's marketing strategy.


Finally, In 2018, IHOP announced that they were changing their name to IHOb, with the "b" standing for burgers. The move was an attempt to promote their new line of burgers, but it quickly backfired as many customers were confused and disappointed by the change. Some even accused the company of sacrificing their brand identity and heritage for a marketing stunt. IHOP eventually revealed that the name change was only temporary, but the controversy still served as a reminder of the risks involved in rebranding and the importance of preserving a company's established brand identity.


Marketing fails are a reminder that even the biggest brands can make mistakes. But these mistakes can also serve as valuable learning opportunities for marketers. The examples mentioned in this article highlight the importance of cultural sensitivity and localization when marketing to audiences, careful planning and risk management when launching social media campaigns, understanding customer behavior and preferences before making major changes, and preserving a company's established brand identity when rebranding. By learning from these mistakes and taking steps to avoid them in the future, brands can minimize the damage and build stronger relationships with their customers.

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