Happy November, friends! As 2014 draws to a close, it’s time to revisit your marketing strategy and evaluate what works for your brand – and what didn’t. This year, the press was buzzing with major marketing faux pas: some controversial, some outrageous, and all negative. After all, “any publicity is good publicity” doesn’t always ring true when you’re offending the customer.
Here’s a look at some of the most memorable “fails” from 2014:
1. Apple’s hundred million dollar U2 debacle
With the launch of the long-awaited iPhone 6 and Apple Watch, Apple had a clever marketing strategy in mind: they negotiated with rock legends U2 to make their new album, “Songs of Innocence,” free to all Apple users. And they only paid a measly sum of $100 million to do so. Overnight, over 500 million iTunes accounts suddenly saw the album appear when they updated the iOS, and the backlash ensued quite rapidly. Hailed as “the U2 virus,” disgruntled customers took to social media to express their outrage, and both Apple and U2 withheld statements for days. Read more here.
2. Urban Outfitters’ distasteful Kent State sweatshirt
In September, clothing brand Urban Outfitters released an exclusive Kent State University sweatshirt splattered with red color. As a clear reference to the 1970 shooting of four students protesting the Vietnam War by the Army National Guard, Kent State officials were deeply offended, and released a statement that the sweatshirt was “beyond poor taste and trivializes a loss of life that still hurts the Kent State community today.” Urban Outfitters posted an apology on Twitter, saying that it was never their intention to “allude to the tragic events that took place at Kent State in 1970” and that they were “extremely saddened” the public chose to see it that way. Ironically, the sweatshirt sold out days after it went on sale – though it has not been relisted since. Read more here.
3. NYPD’s hashtag campaign blows up in their face
The NYPD asked Twitter users to share photos of themselves and NYPD officers using the hashtag #myNYPD, in an apparent attempt to celebrate the department’s history of protection and safety. Unfortunately, the campaign backfired – horribly. Read more here.
4. 1-800-Flowers delivers wilted bouquets
In February, customers flooded social media complaining that their Valentine’s Day flower orders from 1-800-Flowers were arriving wilted and dead. Amidst the outcry (and photos of obviously dead bouquets), the New York-based company blamed the blizzard that plagued the East Coast that winter. In a statement on their Facebook page, the company reiterated that they were “fully committed to our 100 percent smile guarantee,” but that “due to the weather issues we experienced, wait times are longer than we would like.” They apologized to some customers on Twitter, but took to retweeting the few positive experiences others had – which outraged the public even more. Read more here.
5. World Cup brand faux pas
The 2014 World Cup was subject to all sorts of press and social media coverage – and brands jumping on the soccer bandwagon without checking their facts. Big mistake. Among them were the memorable faux pas of Samsung and Delta Airlines. Take a look at these tweets:
(There are no giraffes in Ghana, Delta.)
(What a sweet gesture. Too bad Donovan was cut from the World Cup lineup a month before the tournament started.)
The lessons here? Know what you’re talking about before you post anything to the public. Fact-check. Communicate with your customers and don’t sweep their complaints under the rug. Don’t give people a “gift” if you’re going to force it on them. And for heaven’s sake, don’t make light of a national tragedy!