Like most people, I love a bit of schadenfreude. Especially when it comes to the big brands. And I’ve been obsessed with marketing fails ever since the infamous #susanalbumparty incident. So let’s take a look at some of the biggest marketing fails of 2018!

For a start, there are certain things in the world of public relations that tend to go without saying. Avoiding racism and sexism should be high up on that list. But in 2018 more than a few brands fell foul of them.

Doritos: Lady-friendly crisps


Finally, we can eat snacks!

Womenkind around the world rejoiced when Doritos finally announced they were launching female-friendly bags of crisps. Not. The idea that feminism was about women needing miniature, handbag sized, quiet crisps is an insult to anyone who has ever eaten a family pack to herself in bed. Or, you know … thought about equal rights.

H&M: Coolest Monkey in the Jungle

biggest marketing fails 2018

H&M had some swift PR clean-up to do after an advertisement showing a black kid in a “coolest monkey in the jungle” hoodie caused an uproar on Twitter. The image was deemed “inappropriate” and “racist” and had the clothing firm scrambling to apologise for its oversight. H&M lost their shop in South Africa and partnership with The Weeknd in the aftermath.

Heineken: Sometimes Lighter is Better

biggest marketing fails 2018

Heineken were the second brand to get themselves into hot water over a poorly conceived advertisement was deemed racist. It’s difficult to see how the advert, where a beer is pushed past 3 black people to reach a white woman – all alongside the caption “Sometimes, lighter is better” – was signed off. The advert was so bad that some viewers suggested the offense caused was an intentional way to get the brand talked about. Whether it was intentional or not, the advert became one of the biggest marketing fails of 2018.

Dominos Russa: Free pizza for life

biggest marketing fails 2018

Just how far will people go to get free pizza? Really flipping (eh!) far, is the answer. Dominos wasn’t the only brand to be caught out by people’s love of freebies last year but was the most notable. The offer of free pizza for life to anyone with a Dominos tattoo was cut short within days after hundreds of people got inked.

Snapchat’s insensitive cock-up

Snapchat came under fire in 2018 for displaying an advert for a “Would You Rather” game that made light of domestic violence. The question displayed was “would you rather slap Rihanna or punch Chris Brown”, referring to Brown’s assault of Rihanna in 2009. Rihanna called the platform out herself, saying: “I’m just trying to figure out what the point was with this mess. I’d love to call it ignorance but I know you ain’t that dumb!” Snapchat lost over £600m in market value as a result.

You had one job, KFC

biggest marketing fails 2018

It’s pretty incredible that a business that relies so heavily on one ingredient would run out. However, KFC managed it. In early 2018 KFC had to close the majority of its 900 UK branches when a mix up with a new supplier lead to a chicken shortage. Some diners went to the extreme lengths of calling the police and KFC suffered a huge loss in profits. It’s safe to say they’re unlikely to repeat the error!

However, credit where it’s due, the response from the brand’s marketing team was admirable. KFC was rearranged to FCK in a cheeky apology message to its customers. This quick thinking prevented KFC’s chicken shortage becoming one of the biggest marketing fails of 2018.

Those were my top PR and marketing fails by big brands in 2018! What were your favourite pieces of schadenfreude last year?

If you’re looking for an Edinburgh-based copywriter to help you smash your marketing this year get in touch.