We all make mistakes, and understanding why is often the key to ensuring they don’t reproduce.

In an industry that relies on humans to create strategies, ideas and campaigns, clear communication is key and if the message is confused or not well thought out, disaster can strike.

With the online world as savage as it is, it is hard for brands to hide when they make marketing mistakes, even if they are harmless and unintended. Edge picked some of the most memorable mistakes that will hopefully help you avoid a similarly embarrassing situation.

We don’t have anything against any of the brands we have discussed here, and if anything they just prove that we are all human and all need to at times take a step back and review communication more carefully.

From the cringe-worthy to the technical mishaps, our favourite mini nightmares, looking at what went wrong, helps you work out what is right.


Terrible Twitter

Earlier this month Twitter ground to a halt when national crisp giant Walker’s Twitter campaign spectacularly backfired. The #WalkersWave campaign was a simple enough concept: give Twitter users the chance to win tickets for the Champions League Final in Cardiff. By tweeting a selfie to Walkers, an automated system would respond from @WalkersCrisps with a video featuring Gary holding up a photo of their face, inserted into the video.

Unfortunately,  trolls of Twitter enjoyed sending in selfies of serial killers and sex offenders, which due to the automation of the campaign meaning all entries got automatically published, it didn’t take Twitter long to spot the unexpected faces.

Lesson: Automation is easy and quick, but it does mean there’s no time to filter out any inappropriate received content. If the campaign was manual, these images would have been reviewed and spotted before they were thrown onto the official Walker’s Twitter page. It’s also clear to never assume the internet is mature because as this failure showed, there will always be trolls ready to take advantage, even if it is in bad taste.


Campaign Continuation 

Walker’s immediately took down the campaign and all content surrounding it shortly after it was clear it was not being received as expected. The same can’t be said for American Apparel, who have received numerous moments of backlash over the past few years for accusations of sexualising young girls and children in their advertisement of clothes. Although admitting their initial wrongdoing, the brand continued with campaigns that time after time received a negative response from the public. It’s pretty common sense for most marketers to stop something that isn’t working, but it seems American Apparel didn’t get the memo. Publishing more advertisements deemed exploitative, they even received numerous ASA bans and refusals of publication due to their images.

Lesson: The company were able to prove that their models were in fact over age, but there’s still a lesson to be learnt here that thinking carefully about how your campaigns will be received before making them viral, is probably a smart idea. We all see things differently, and evidently, a lot of people disagreed with the stance the brand took to advertise and the models they chose.



Many strategists are well aware of the benefits of latching onto any current news or affairs that could give their brand a little boost. There are, however, clearly some events that shouldn’t be utilised for business advantage, and clothing giant Gap came under fire for this during storm Sandy. Assuming everyone was sheltering indoors, they released a well intended harmless comment that people can instead shop online, but of course, for those affected and facing devastation due to the hurricane, it was hardly a well thought out comment.

On a similar note, McDonald’s were also labelled as exploiting tragic events by adding messages to their billboards including ‘we remember 9/11’ and ‘we stand by Boston’ after the Boston Marathon bombings occurred. It may seem a good idea to show everyone you too are also anti-terrorism, but when you’re a global brand that is trying to sell stuff, people will be quick to assume you’re just trying to gain attention from unfortunate causes, which is what happened to McDonald’s.


Trying to Play The Hero

Starbuck’s digital and physical race together campaign launched in 2015 had good intentions, to encourage those to engage in discussing race issues with baristas. A harmless idea made to bring local communities together, the coffee giant actually ended up dropping the campaign after just six days when it became clear many saw the topic too broad and important to be stamped on coffee cups as a promotion for the brand. Of course, it’s so important to be able to express matters that mean a lot to your brand, and launching campaigns to raise awareness of them can often see great results.

Lesson: It seems on this occasion though that Starbucks was just a little too big for their boots thinking they could end race discrimination through scrawling the slogan on their cups and asking costumers to chat about the topic. Sensitive issues need to be addressed appropriately or not at all if they are to be included in a strategy, and it seems the coffee cup idea just wasn’t well thought out enough.


Careful Humour

We know that sometimes a clever joke can help engage an audience terrifically, but knowing the difference between when something is witty and offensive is very important. MTV Australia utilised 2016G ‘Golden Globes’ event to share their opinion on the night, one of which did not go down very well. Asking their followers where the subtitles were as they couldn’t understand two of the female winners, was met with backlash labelling the account racist and unacceptable. The brand did later respond which an apology.

Lesson: We all know that words typed out can sound very different to real speech, so thinking carefully about the tone of a comment will ensure you don’t end up accidentally offending anyone. What may seem a casual joke to some, can be grossly inappropriate for others. If you’re not sure how it’ll be received, it’s probably safest to not share it.


Live up To Your Campaign

Many of us will remember Amazon’s recent #PrimeDayFail. Spending weeks campaigning and promoting the event which they publicly said would gain more sales than Black Friday put together, customers were deeply disappointed when the day came around and online stock resembled a ‘garage sale.’ Having spent the time campaigning that users can expect great products with great discounts, they were setting their standards high and definitely didn’t manage to meet them. Numerous reports, although not verified, suggest Amazon’s revenue that night was drastically less than they expected.

Lesson: If you’re going to produce a ‘countdown’ style campaign that promotes and builds excitement for a certain day or event, it’s important to give an accurate expectation so users aren’t left confused when the real deal is far from what was promoted and promised. Amazon did prove however that successful run-up campaigning will lead to interest, as they did have thousands logging on to buy when they launched.

In conclusion, it’s clear most marketing mistakes are very much unintended, and marketing is often learning from our mistakes to generate something awesome that works. We all make mistakes, but as long as we are analysing mistakes carefully, we can at least bank of not making them again.