Yet, the episode is just one of a handful of marketing mistakes that have prompted brands to scramble to do damage control. In some instances the mistakes appear to have been the result of technology problems, but in other instances, the problems have arisen from bad taste in producing content.
Surprisingly, many of the mistakes have occurred at large brands that have ample resources that could have be used to prevent such problems. One recent offensive ad, which may have been a result of technology, involved an advertisement on Walmart’s ecommerce platform for a wig cap that was brown. The advertisement, which appeared in July, used the N- word to describe just how brown the color was, according to the Miami Herald.
Walmart quickly issued an apology and explained that the advertisement was from a third-party seller. Online postings quickly assailed Walmart, with commentators claiming that the company should have sufficient resources to prevent such a blunder.
While modern algorithms may or may not be able to screen out offensive advertisements, a recent Amazon mistake appears to be clearly the result of a technology mix up. The firm recently sent emails informing customers that items had been purchased from their baby registries.
The recipients, however, hadn’t established such registries and many didn’t even have children. So reports Mashable. For some individuals who received the emails, the communications was a source of intrigue or confusion. Other recipients, however, commented that the email was highly offensive to women with fertility problems. Amazon responded by sending the recipients follow up emails that apologized for any confusion that the incorrectly distributed announcements may have caused.
Facebook has also ventured into the category of marketing blunders. It recently ran an advertisement featuring cartoon images of Mark Zuckerberg and Rachel Franklin, who is a member of Facebook’s virtual reality team. It showed the two discussing Facebook’s amazing new VR app while images in the background showed devastation in Puerto Rico caused by Hurricane Maria. Some residents of Puerto Rico thanked Zuckerberg for calling attention to the damage while some commentators thought the video was in poor taste.
Maya Kosoff of Vanity Fair said the video was an avoidable public relations disaster, reports The Washington Post. Zuckerberg responded by saying he wanted to call attention to how virtual reality can raise awareness of problems and he wanted to use the content to announce Facebook’s partnership with the American Red Cross. He acknowledged that the message was unclear and he apologized to anyone that he may have offended.
Nikon has also found itself with egg on its face. It recently launched a campaign that featured 32 male photographers to promote its new D850 camera. It was criticized for not including any women photographers in the campaign, reports Marketing-Interactive.
It then received additional criticism because its apology included an explanation that women photographers who were invited to participate in the campaign weren’t available. That resulted in commentators questioning how many women photographers were invited to participate in the program.
Needless to say, firms need to be both thoughtful when creating campaigns, and careful when distributing them.