2015 Marketing Failures We Can All Learn From

2015 Marketing Failures

Every year companies around the world get themselves into marketing quagmires, either by accident or design. Here are some notable examples from the past year. They include hacking, ketchup brands promoting porn sites, corruption at a level that organised crime wouldn’t attempt, test-cheaters, and a pram company using bikini-clad models on social media.

1. FIFA Corruption

The FIFA corruption scandal could go down as one of the most catastrophic 2015 marketing failures. We have had our scandals here in Ireland, with everybody from bankers to politicians to industry bodies lining their own pockets at the expense of others. What is going on at FIFA, however, is at a level that could be unprecedented. Others will write about the corruption and the failures in leadership – in this blog we are interested in the PR and marketing failures. The corruption is bad enough – FIFA’s inability to take decisive action to turn the organisation around and change the story is what will have the longest-lasting effects.

2. Hacking TalkTalk

For many companies and company bosses the situation in TalkTalk was a situation of “there but for the grace of God go I”. The hack involved the theft of personal data of up to four million TalkTalk customers. The company’s reputation took a hammering, despite a proactive response from their CEO. It demonstrated how vulnerable many businesses are to cyber-attack, and how devastating those hacks have the potential to be.

3. Volkswagen Test Cheats

While TalkTalk dealt with an attack from outside in 2015, Volkswagen was dealing with disaster all of its own making. Basically it created software that cheated emissions tests to make their vehicles appear more environmentally friendly than they were. They have announced a plan to fix the cars affected, and people have lost their jobs as a result, but this 2015 marketing failure means  they now face a mountain of time and marketing to win back consumer trust is formidable.

4. Heinz Ketchup and Porn Sites

Yep, there is a title you probably didn’t expect, but this story happened in 2015. The problem started when Heinz put a QR code on its bottles of tomato sauce. When you scanned the code on your phone it took you to a Heinz website. It all sounds great, right? The problem is that QR codes are subscription based, and Heinz didn’t renew their subscription. A German porn website spotted an opportunity and bought the QR code. This led to Heinz customers enjoying chips and burgers being presented with hardcore porn when they scanned the code. It just shows how technology can harm marketing efforts when not handled properly.

5. Bugaboo and Bikinis

If you ran a company that made prams and buggies you probably wouldn’t automatically think that at scantily-clad woman would be the best image to use in your social media marketing campaigns. This is exactly what Bugaboo did, though. They used a famous and very thin model with a message that was supposed to be about keeping fit and using prams at the same time. Unsurprisingly real mums (i.e. mums who are not Danish supermodels and who do not go for jogs wearing skimpy bikinis) reacted with varying degrees of sarcasm and incredulity. Either way, it did not go down well for Bugaboo. This is a  2015 marketing failures the company won’t forget.