10 biggest brand fails of 2018
Tone-deaf ads and racist tweets and taglines—many brands have yet to master the simplest rule of marketing: Don’t piss people off. Here are some of the biggest mistakes marketers made in ads, products, public comments and internal operations this year.
H&M’s hoodie snafu
The retailer posted an ad featuring a black child wearing a hoodie with the words “coolest monkey in the jungle.” Many called the chain racist and H&M faced store closures from protests and security concerns for the child model.
Revolve’s fat-shaming blunder
A sweatshirt reading “being fat is not beautiful, it’s an excuse” also caused an uproar. A collaboration between brand LPA and celebrities including Lena Dunham, it was sold by Los Angeles-based retailer Revolve but quickly pulled.
The retail giant’s site went glitchy mere minutes into its 36-hour Prime Day. Still, more than 100 million products were sold on the made-up holiday.
Victoria’s (not so) Secret fail
CMO Ed Razek told Vogue that transgender and plus-size models should not walk in the underwear brand’s runway shows. Shortly after, the struggling retailer announced the abrupt departure of CEO Jan Singer.
Snapchat redesign repels users
The platform’s redesign was so bad that users petitioned it to reverse the changes. The company said it lost 2 percent of its users due to the disaster. Even Kylie Jenner has cooled on the app.
Heineken’s tagline mistake
Heineken began promoting “sometimes lighter is better” to market its light beer. Many called the TV ads racist, with Chance the Rapper and his more than 7 million Twitter followers leading the charge. Heineken acknowledged it “missed the mark.”
Mastercard’s meals misstep
Consumers complained that its initiative with the U.N. World Food Programme to give away 10,000 meals for every goal scored by brand ambassadors Lionel Messi and Neymar was too gimmicky, and said Mastercard should just give out the meals. The campaign was scrapped.
Marriott’s China gaffe and data hack
Marriott risked its expansion plans in China when it listed “Tibet, Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan” as countries on a customer survey—even though China claims sovereignty over all four. Chinese authorities shut down Marriott’s China website and app for a week. Plus, Marriott suffered one of the largest data breaches in history, affecting 500 million consumers at its Starwood properties. It’s now facing a class-action lawsuit.
Dolce & Gabbana’s racist ad
A series of ads depicting a Chinese woman struggling to eat Italian food was slammed by consumers with boycotts and accusations of racism (not for the first time). Dolce & Gabbana canceled its Shanghai fashion show.
Facebook’s million mistakes
The social media giant had too many missteps to just name one, which is why Ad Age is running a separate list on the subject.