With 2019 behind us, we can freely take a look at how the world of marketing has fared in the previous year. And what a year it’s been, with an astounding number of failures in marketing. We’ve outlined some of the worst (and funniest) examples of bad marketing practices below! It is our hope that you will come to understand just how much room there is for making mistakes when it comes to marketing. And with Movers Development to guide your business, you will be better off in knowing how to avoid marketing fails.

Accidental Spying on Conversations By Google

If you were to get a website marketing analysis these days, one thing would be clear – you have to rank well on Google in order to succeed. But even this giant makes a misstep here and there – especially in the previous year. Google faced one of its biggest marketing blunders yet in July of 2019.

Their Google Home smart speakers, the rival to Amazon’s Alexa, have actually been recording and transcribing human conversations in their vicinity. A public broadcaster from Belgium revealed this, showing how a Google contractor actually had access to the conversations. Among them, more than a hundred and fifty recordings didn’t have anyone saying the phrase “OK Google” – the words that are supposed to be a signal for the device to start listening.

Peloton’s Christmas Advert

In this day and age, visibility is everything. If you’re wondering “what is the best way to advertise my business“, a lot of the traditional marketers will point towards a good old Christmas advert. However, it’s 2020 – and your message needs to stay perfectly within the bounds of political correctness. Peloton – the fitness giant – made the mistake of including a somewhat sexist message in their yuletide ad. It was a husband who brings an exercise machine back home to a dutiful wife, and then she proceeds to work out over the next year. Suffice it to say that the ad received significant backlash.

A Christmas tree with ornaments.
Christmas is the best time for original advertisements – but also the most difficult one!

IBM Facial Recognition Scandal

Whether we’re talking about moving company leads or the lead generation for any other niche – breakthrough technologies like machine learning are constantly being used for lead generation software. These programs scour the Internet for data on any prospective clients and easily systematize them. However, data privacy is a big concern here – and that ties in neatly with one of the biggest marketing fails of 2019 committed by IBM.

In March of that year, IBM received an accusation of misusing people’s Flickr photos. More specifically, it turns out that IBM used these photos to train their machine learning algorithms for facial recognition. Notably, they did not ask for the permission of any people who were in the images. This facial recognition project took almost a million photos out of a Yahoo-compiled dataset of images posted on Flickr. Most of these people had absolutely no idea of what their pictures were used for.

The IBM logo on a building.
A series of credit cards, including Apple’s white one, representing marketing fails.

In their statement on the issue, IBM claims that it took extreme care not to step out of compliance with data privacy laws and principles.  Still, plenty of photographers who posted the images on Flickr were taken by surprise to find their photos contained data for skin tones, facial geometry, etc. While IBM added the option of opting out of the program, it seems that there is still no way to remove the photos that were previously used by IBM.

Boris Bangers

Sometimes, a brand can gain a lot by voicing their stance on politics in an opportune time. However, in most cases – dabbling in politics publically as a big company will lead to trouble. The British sausage producer Heck found this out the hard way.

The company hosted the not-universally-popular British prime minister Boris Johnson in their factory. This wouldn’t be too bad in and of itself, but they showed support for his polarizing politics by making a particular Boris Banger sausage specifically in the PM’s honor. The move turned out to be one of the bigger marketing fails of the year. While Heck gained the publicity they were after; it’s safe to say that they probably didn’t expect a social media maelstrom that came after. In the current British political climate; siding with either of the two dominant parties isn’t something a sausage company should think about seriously.

Apple’s New Credit Card

We all know that Apple has one of the most successful marketing and brand-building efforts in the history of the world. However, even they allow themselves marketing fails here and there. For example – Apple’s religious dedication to pristine white products. While it has made them recognizable, it also made them the laughing stock with the creation of their line of credit cards.

A series of credit cards, including Apple's white one, representing marketing fails.
Apple’s new credit card is as white as their other products – but at what cost?

When they launched the card in August 2019 Apple warned users that the white plastic could be “dirtied” or discolored permanently; due to fabrics used to manufacture jeans and some wallets. They had to publish an entire guide on keeping the card crispy clean. Can you imagine taking the time to maintain your credit card? Hilarious. Still, we’re sure that plenty of Apple users won’t find it difficult in order to stay on-brand. 

US Military Threats

One of the funniest marketing fails happened not on the part of some major brand or a large corporation. Instead, the US Military committed this particular blunder. Back in September, the military issued an apology on account of a, particularly threatening tweet. The Twitter post in question was a joke made by a member of the communication service who was managing the account at the time. Below a picture of airmen and a stealth bomber, the employee in question jokingly tweeted that this was what alien hunters would see if they stormed Area 51. Let’s just say that the public didn’t take kindly to this PR bombshell (all pun intended).

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