What We Learned from 2018’s Worst Brand Marketing Decisions

It’s the time of the year to look back and reflect on what
we’ve achieved, or what we have done wrong.

In 2018, we’ve seen some of the biggest marketing fallouts
from brands across all industries. Below is a list of what some of
those, and what marketers can learn from them.

Addressing controversies like race and gender

In January this year, H&M underwent a serious reputation
crisis for tolerating racism, because of a modeling photo featuring
an African-American boy wearing a green hoodie with “COOLEST
MONKEY IN THE JUNGLE” on it. It was made trending on Twitter by
blogger Stephanie Yeboah, who tweeted “Whose idea was it at @hm
to have this little sweet black boy wear a jumper that says
‘coolest monkey in the jungle? I mean. What.’”

In response, H&M issued an apology saying “We believe in
diversity and inclusion in all that we do and will be reviewing all
our internal policies accordingly to avoid any future issues.”
The media relations team told
PR News
that the item would no longer be for sale, and that the
incident happened because internal procedures weren’t followed
accordingly.

Another aspect that can get just as complicated as race is
gender. This year on International Women’s Day, McDonald’s
flipped its signature yellow “M” upside down on social media
profiles and even in 100 restaurants across the country. With
“W” standing for women, McDonald’s was expecting some
applause from the public recognizing their effort in celebrating
women. However, the campaign was faced with criticism as a
misstep.

People expressed outrage on social media, condemning the brand
for focusing onleft-wingan initiating real change to support women,
especially in equal pay.
The Guardian
reported that Momentum, a British left wing group,
posted a
video
about how McDonald’s low wages endangered women workers
who face poverty and homelessness.

“This empty McFeminism has nothing to do with women’s
liberation and everything to do with McDonald’s attempt to
sanitise its image,” Laura Parker, Momentum’s national
coordinator, told The Guardian.

Consumers nowadays don’t buy into empty pledges or stunts
anymore, and they expect consistency from a brand. For H&M,
similar crises will almost for sure pop up again in the future if
they don’t make an effort to ensure that important policies and
values are followed in every step of carrying out a campaign or
producing a product. And for McDonald’s, the Women’s Day
gesture came from a good place, but they needed to make sure
controversial issues that bear any relevance to a campaign like
this were addressed beforehand.

Backfire of influencer marketing

Influencer marketing is such a hot topic that all brands want to
give it a shot, however, when not executed properly, influencers
can be the ones that initiate a loss of value and controversy, but
not popularity.

After Snap integrated its redesign this February, Kylie Jenner,
one of the internet’s most popular influencers who has a 25
million following, tweeted
out something that Snap found quite hard to take, financially.

sooo does anyone else not open Snapchat
anymore? Or is it just me… ugh this is so sad.

— Kylie Jenner (@KylieJenner)
February 21, 2018

Following this tweet, Snap’s market value drop $1.3 billion
overnight. Though her tweet might not be the only reason causing
the drop, it most definitely had something to do with it.

In cases like this, it’s hard to predict which influencers
won’t be happy about your brand’s new design or campaigns. It
then becomes important to follow up with influencers, discuss
in-depth what they want, and work out a plan to offset negative
impacts.

Behaviors and words from top figures

A company’s CEOs nowadays are important public figures,
sometimes even a bit like celebrities, to the public. And for big
companies like Papa John’s, it’s hard to keep the secret in
when something inappropriate happens. Back in July,
Forbes
reported that Papa John’s CEO John Schnatter made
racial slurs and used the N-word during a conference call.
Following the report, Schnatter had resigned as chairman of the
board, though this incident has caused some serious reputational
damage to the pizza chain.

It’s sad news for Papa John, especially since Schnatter has
been very attached to the branding and stories of the chain. And
for brands like Dolce & Gabbana, lead figures like designers
can also cause huge marketing chaos.

Just last month,
screenshots of an Instagram messages exchange
between Dolce
& Gabbana’s co-founder, Stefano Gabbana and an Instagram
user, model Michele Tranovo, caused huge outrage in China. In these
messages, Michele accused the brand of running a racially
inappropriate ad featuring a Chinese model having difficulty eating
Italian food with chopsticks. The designer seemed to not be happy
about it and started fighting back by accusing the model of
dog-eating habits, a stereotype against Chinese.

The exchange soon went viral and has led directly to the
cancellation of the brand’s fashion show in Shanghai as
celebrities originally signed onto the show canceled their
attendance last minute and expressed extreme anger online. It’s
for sure not to smart move for one of the brand’s top two
designers to have irritated its biggest market.

The marketing nightmare didn’t end there. The designer later
posted “NOT ME” on his Instagram trying to shed off the
responsibility by saying his account has been hacked.

Top figures of a brand can sometimes be as influential to the
company’s reputation as an influencer. A simple word said wrong
can cause huge catastrophe, which is why everything they say should
be carefully looked through and managed.

Managing data breaches

Facebook came under fire this March when it was revealed that
the data company, Cambridge Analytica, had collected personal
information of more than 50 million Facebook users through an app
that scrapes data.

This damaging breach adds even more heat to the platform,
especially at a time when it has already been constantly accused of
not doing enough to protect users privacy.

Social platforms are easy targets for hackers as being great
data sources. And the aftermath of this crisis spreads further than
just the data spectrum. Leadership like Mark Zuckerberg and COO
Sheryl Sandberg are under constant scrutiny; the public is
experiencing a trust crisis with the platform and some of them even
choose to leave forever; not to mention that the platform continues
to struggle with user engagement and market performance.

It’s time for brands to think more carefully about the era of
great data we are living in, and what are the steps to take when
data breaches and privacy issues like this occur.

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What We Learned from 2018’s Worst Brand Marketing Decisions

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What We Learned from 2018’s Worst Brand Marketing Decisions