the unethical campaigns

Organisations usually run unethical digital marketing campaigns due to ignorance or misjudgement rather than purposefully intending to offend potential consumers. 

Some companies choose to use digital marketing to present their brand in an ethical way for the sole purpose of profit. These ‘ethical’ campaigns may only be a duplicitous facade to engage consumers. 

To ethically profit from digital marketing techniques that use a political or moral stance as a strategy, these values must not only be for marketing purposes but also be synonymous with the organisation’s ethos. 

When the message is disingenuous it is usually very clear, and social media users are quick to call it out!

53% of consumers who are disappointed in a brand’s response to a social issue complain about it (Accenture Strategy, 2018), which has the ability to spark a viral social media phenomenon as seen in the examples below!

Pepsi is a brand that has made an insensitive digital marketing mistake that consumers are unlikely to forget about quickly!

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Pepsi’s 2017 viral social media failure which accidentally saw Kendall Jenner trivialising a Black Lives Matter protest which was widely considered to be very offensive.

The below misjudgement by Facebook shows some sensitivity can go a long way in the eyes of consumers!

image by The Verge

Facebook made a faux pas in 2017 when they released a video showing a cartoon version of Mark Zuckerberg touring the destruction of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico through virtual reality technology. 

The marketing team at Bud Light clearly didn’t realise the implications of their campaign catchphrase, but social media sure did!

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The Bud Light can was remodelled to read: “The perfect beer for removing ‘no’ from your vocabulary for the night” alongside the hashtag #UpForWhatever. The hashtag blew up on social media dragging Bug Light for encouraging rape culture. 

These examples go to show that even big businesses with huge marketing budgets and an entire team behind them can make serious misjudgements when it comes to their campaigns!

My advice: always think ethically!

If you aren’t sure that your digital marketing campaign won’t be offensive to an entire demographic in your target market, you probably need to rethink your angle!

To revel in the cringe factor for a bit longer check out some more examples of marketing fails here!

Please comment your thoughts on these examples, or tell us about another example below!

6 thoughts on “the unethical campaigns

  1. Such a good read! These marketing scandals are definitely one’s that go down in history. Does that mean they reached a level of success in some way since they’re memorable in the fact that they’re so awful?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks Viviann! I think it can create serious publicity for a brand…I would love to find out whether this publicity would have a negative or positive impact on a company’s bottom line. I assume it differs depending on how offensive the fail is & to how many people!


  2. Wow these are really great examples of very stupid marketing campaigns! I find it most shocking that the marketers who produced the campaigns didn’t realise how unethical they were! It is definitely extremely important for digital marketers to focus on creating ethical campaigns .

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It really is a fascinating concept that marketers can miss the mark by such a long way! You’d think that in a diverse marketing team there’d be at least someone who sees the red flags in these campaigns before they go live! Thanks for your comment Julia.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. It’s crazy to think how some advertisements were allowed to be released! It is essential that all campaigns are ethically conducted and presented so that it’s purpose is clear to its target audience.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes it really is bizarre how some of these are allowed to be released! I agree, social responsibility is such an important factor in marketing campaigns. I think this is particularly true for companies who are marketing to a younger audience who are very socially aware!


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