In our world of tiny attention spans, the art of well-placed, well-timed, catchy marketing to attract buyers has become the norm. And with it comes some hilarious screw-ups.
Can you name that last snazzy new item you purchased from Amazon’s “Deal of the Day” – or just from online, in general? Bet there are a few things among those purchase that were more impulse than necessity, sitting idly in your house, unused and neglected. Some you may even repurchase, forgetting you already have a solar-powered, camouflage camping fan tucked away in your closet. Retailers win those rounds. But when they lose, their sloppiness is noteworthy: Wrong market, bad timing, misplaced hashtags, over-the-top or cultural misunderstandings, you name it (beyond what I just did).
So, with the holiday season quickly approaching, and retailers scrambling to finish flyers and commercials to lure our wallets and credit cards into their stores, here are some of the “Best of the Worst” holiday marketing gone terribly, terribly wrong to help you feel a little less bitter about things:
1. Hanukkah Hum-Ho - 2015
What happens when an upscale department store runs a print ad, marketing a “humorous” Hanukkah? Nordstrom quickly pulled this sweater, part of Faux Real’s ‘Chai Maintenance’ line, off its racks, after customers protested on the store's Facebook page, saying the slogan was a slur and stereotype against Jewish women.
2. MLK the Surfer - 2011
What does a surf shop in Laguna Beach, Calif., do to drum up business in January? Crop Martin Luther King, Jr.’s image onto a surfer's body and offer a 20% discount on all black items in the store. Needless to say, this was an epic fail. Sometimes, we can all do with a little less creativity in our lives... .
3. Frightfully Tactless...2014
Thousands of customers took their outrage to Twitter when it was discovered that Walmart's link for plus-sized women's costumes led to a “fat girl costumes” section. While Walmart spent days apologizing for this mistake (or hack), let us remember that all businesses are ultimately responsible for their websites – the good, the bad, and the ugly.
4. Facebook Fail - 2013
This is where research is essential. The London Luton Airport used this picture to highlight safety, but a 6-year-old boy was killed onboard the plane pictured, which slid off a runway in Chicago in 2005. Their airport might be safe, but this tactless attempt at marketing certainly wasn’t.
5. Christmas Ball(s) - 2015
Out with your best friend, enjoying a lavish holiday work party...she looks good...really good...go ahead, spike her eggnog...take her back to your place...it's consensual...really... what's the harm? Or so Bloomingdale's would have you believe. Somehow, no one caught this glaring invitation to date rape, until it was published in the department store's holiday catalog last year. After receiving complaints on Twitter, Bloomingdale's issued an apology.
6. Stocking Stuffer - 2007
Nothing says Merry Christmas like receiving a bottle of va-jay-jay fragranced perfume. What more is there to say?
7. Timing is Everything. - 2014
With the release of Season 1 of Sleepy Hollow, the execs at 20th Century Fox decided to create a series of ecards for the show's fan base. Sadly, they were publicized soon after American journalist Steven Sotloff was beheaded. The show's PR team quickly made the social media rounds to apologize for their ill-timed idea.
The list is far from comprehensive, but it speaks to three things:
Good luck this season!