What Are Some Popular Examples of Failed Digital Marketing Strategies?

Due to the rapid emergence and evolution of digital technology, today's consumers have a high level of trust and transparency in brands. If your organization's digital marketing campaign is not up to par, it could potentially damage its reputation. Fortunately, there are many ways to improve your brand's reputation and attract more potential customers. One of these is by implementing a well-designed digital campaign that includes the right mix of creativity, data-driven actions, and inspirational content.

Every year, various resources are allocated for marketing plans by businesses. Planning and implementing marketing initiatives can be a time-consuming process that requires several approvals. Unfortunately, many of these initiatives fail to generate the desired results. One of the most common reasons these plans fail is the lack of a clear goal.

What is a Marketing Strategy?

A brand's marketing strategy is a long-term plan that aims to position the company's products and services in the market. It can be created by analyzing the company's current and future goals, as well as how it can create sales opportunities. There are four levels of marketing strategies that a company can adopt: product, pricing, promotion, and distribution.

Popular Examples of Failed Digital Marketing Strategies

Even though teams put a lot of effort into launching marketing campaigns, some of them fail. For instance, a campaign might get misinterpreted, or its tone might make light of a serious issue. Here are some of the worst examples of failed marketing that big companies have experienced.

Pepsi and Kendall Jenner

The ad, which featured Kendall Jenner, was one of the most poorly executed marketing strategies in history. It showed Kendall walking up to a police officer and giving him a Pepsi can as a peace offering. The entire commercial was supposed to promote global unity and peace, but it did exactly that.

It trivialized the Black Lives Matter protest, and it was incredibly tone-deaf. It was launched during a time when it was important to show off your brand's latest and most updated designs.

Airbnb Sends the "Floating World" Email

In 2017, Airbnb's "Floating World" email marketing campaign was severely affected by Hurricane Harvey in Houston. The campaign promoted water-themed attractions, such as water-based vacation homes and slides. Some of the headlines included "Stay above water" and "Live aquatic life."

Although the public did not seem to be offended by the campaign, some people took to social media to voice their concerns about it. In response, Airbnb issued an apology. The company noted that the campaign's timing was insensitive. It also continued to keep the individuals affected by the hurricane in its thoughts.

Dove’s Racist Facebook ad

The negative effects of a poorly designed Facebook ad campaign by Dove were not only visible on social media, but they also ruined the brand's efforts to reinforce positivity. The ad featured a young black woman taking off her shirt to reveal a white woman who had come from underneath. Had the campaign been executed properly, it could have been a different story. One of the biggest lessons that the company learned from this incident is the importance of having a multi-disciplinary review team to ensure that campaigns are inclusive.

Audi Compares Women to used cars

In 2017, Audi released an ad campaign for its used-car division in China. The ad featured a couple getting ready to get married. Suddenly, the mother of the groom stops the wedding and aggressively inspects the bride's body. She then makes an OK gesture, but then she realizes that the bride is already sighing in relief as her chest is covered in air. The ad then cuts to a vehicle driving on a highway. The voiceover stated that an important decision must be taken carefully.

The ad was immediately criticized by many people due to its sexist nature. After it was released, the commercial became a trending topic on China's Weibo platform. In response, Audi apologized and withdrew the ad.

"White is Purity" ad by Nivea

One of the most disastrous marketing strategies was the ad campaign for the skincare company, Nivea, which featured the slogan, "White is purity." The image accompanying it showed a woman in a white outfit, with her back covered by dark hair. The reaction of the audience was that it was racist and inappropriate. Being sensitive to the needs of customers worldwide is very important to ensure that your marketing efforts are successful.

Huggies Make fun of Fathers

In 2012, the marketing firm behind "The Dad Test" campaign launched a campaign against fathers. In the ad, the company pitted its products against those of its kids. The objective of the campaign was to show that wipes and diapers could handle anything and that fathers would be alone with their kids for five days.

The campaign, which was focused on the stereotype that fathers are unable to take care of their kids without their partners, was widely criticized. It also made fun of gay couples and single parents.


A good marketing strategy is very important to increase sales and establish a strong brand identity. It can also help a company grow its organic revenue and measure its ROI. A well-designed strategy involves the company's vision, target audiences, and the various elements of its multi-channel plan. Even though viral marketing trends can change quickly, it’s important to consider how your audience will react to your campaigns. This strategy can help avoid the backlash that some companies experience after their efforts.

There is no room for complacency when it comes to promoting your brand values. Your campaigns should have a positive, empowering, and inclusive feel, and they should be conducted with the necessary due diligence and preparation. If you make a mistake, you should immediately issue an apology. Being defensive will only add to the damage to your brand's reputation.