Learning from 5 Marketing Fails: Case Studies of What Not to Do!

by Cristina Matco

Learning from 5 Marketing Fails: Case Studies of What Not to Do!

As you surely already know, marketing is a long-term strategy for promoting, distributing, and selling products or services.

A correct marketing approach is essential because it can bring you success, but it can work against you if you use it incorrectly. Over the years, we have seen many successful marketing campaigns, but at the same time, there have also been failures that become further lessons for marketers - a kind of not-to-do list. 

Let's see what mistakes were made by influencing brands and what we can learn from them.

Marketing Fails Across Channels: Case Studies

Marketing strategies and campaigns can be implemented across a variety of marketing channels, depending on your marketing goals. Each channel presents opportunities for both successful and unsuccessful approaches, but right now it's about failures.

Email Marketing Fail - Google's Joke

In 2016, Google introduced a fake "Mic Drop" feature in Gmail for April Fool's Day. This feature added a button that inserted a GIF of a minion dropping a microphone into your email. The idea was that it would be a playful way to end an email conversation. However, some users accidentally clicked the button on important emails, causing a lot of problems and frustration.

How was it resolved?

Google’s Gmail Team apologized and quickly removed the feature after realizing it wasn't funny for everyone.

Again, sorry. We love April Fools jokes at Google, and we regret that this joke missed the mark and disappointed you.  

Well, it looks like we pranked ourselves this year. 😟 Due to a bug, the Mic Drop feature inadvertently caused more headaches than laughs. We’re truly sorry. The feature has been turned off. If you are still seeing it, please reload your Gmail page.

What to learn? 

This is an example of how an email product that introduces a confusing button can cause such negative user experiences.

When writing an email, be careful with the subject, don't use too many emoticons, do not write vague content, use calls to action, and put the buttons in the right place.

Companies need to consider how their actions might affect users, especially when it comes to something sensitive like email communication. If you don’t want to fail neither in marketing nor in emails, you can choose an Email Marketing company from TechBehemoths to assist you

Marketing Video Fail: Facebook's Puerto Rico Broadcast 

To promote Facebook's VR products, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg held a virtual reality (VR) livestream in which cartoon versions of himself and a colleague visited the hurricane-ravaged island of Puerto Rico. Many people criticized the broadcast because it seemed insensitive to use VR for a serious situation like a disaster. They were talking about a serious situation while acting happy in a cartoon world.

Zuckerberg said: “One of the things that’s really magical about virtual reality, is you can get the feeling that you’re really in a place.”

Franklin answered: “Crazy to feel like you’re in the middle of it.”

 Felt like a vacation (disaster tourism) instead of showing empathy and helping Puerto Rico.

facebooks Puerto Rico BroadCast Marketing Fail

How was it resolved?

Zuckerberg later explained that he intended to use VR to raise awareness of the situation and promote Facebook's partnership with the Red Cross. However, he admitted that the message was not clear and apologized for offending anyone.

What was wrong? 

  • The tone of voice -  instead of using a serious tone to acknowledge the disaster, Zuckerberg and his coworker used lighthearted avatars and conversation, making it seem like a regular visit.

  • Focus on promotion: The broadcast seemed more interested in promoting Facebook's VR technology than in offering real help. They even switched gears to talk about an upcoming VR conference.

What to learn? 

Consider the circumstances and context in which you do a promotion. Be mindful of your audience's feelings, and if your intention is good, explain your intentions clearly. Our VR development companies can help you avoid failure.

New Coke: A Design & Marketing Fail

In 1985, Coca-Cola tried to change the flavor and packaging of its drink with "New Coke". However, consumers disliked New Coke and wanted the original formula known as "Coca-Cola Classic" back. This event is considered one of the biggest marketing failures ever.

new coke marketing design fail

How was it resolved?

Coca-Cola brought back the original recipe and packaging just a few months later.

What was wrong?

  • Coca-Cola changed the recipe based on taste tests, but these tests didn't take into account the emotional connection consumers had with the original flavor.

  • Consumers were revolted and protested the overall change, showing a surprising level of brand loyalty.

What to learn? 

Emotional connection matteres more. People don't just buy products, they buy experiences and associations. Coca-Cola failed to consider the emotional connection consumers had with the original drink. Want a perfect product design? Feel free to pick one from our 2000+ companies specializing in this service. Just to make sure you won’t end up like Coke.

Burger King Tweet: Social Media Marketing Fail

Burger King tweeted "Women belong in the kitchen" trying to promote a scholarship for female chefs on International Women's Day. Big fail. People on Twitter were furious because they thought Burger King was saying women should only cook. Burger King tried to explain they just wanted to be funny,  it was a joke to get people interested in their scholarship program for female chefs. But it was too late, no one saw the explanation first.

Burger King Tweet Social Media Marketing Fail

How was it resolved?

Burger King apologized and deleted the tweet.

What to learn? 

Think before you post anything on social media. 

A message that might seem funny in a meeting room can land very differently online. Take the extra time to consider how your message will be interpreted by a wide audience, especially on a sensitive topic.

Avoid humor or sarcasm that can be easily misunderstood online. 

Be prepared for negative reactions, even with well-intentioned posts.

If your message lands poorly, apologize quickly and take steps to fix it. The longer a negative message stays up, the worse the damage. However, if you’re not sure how a social media strategy works - reach out to professional SMM companies you can find on TechBehemoths. 

Yahoo's Outdoor Ad Fail: 404 Not Found

A Yahoo ad appeared next to a "404" section in a sports stadium. The "404" error code signifies a webpage that cannot be found.  Placing an ad for a search engine next to a section referencing a web error creates a confusing association and a humorous fusion.

Yahoo Outdoor Ad Fail: 404 Not Found

Source: https://www.adfailure.com/

Possible Reasons?

Accidental Placement: It's more likely this was a simple mistake in ad placement. 

This mistake might create a negative association with Yahoo and lead to a missed opportunity. The prime location on a sports stadium billboard could have been used for a more targeted and relevant ad that would resonate with the stadium audience.

What to learn? 

Double-check your ad placement. The wrong ads can be confusing and ineffective. Make sure the message aligns with the environment and resonates with the people who will interact with it.

Ads work best when relevant to the audience and their current situation. A  misplaced ad can sometimes come across as unprofessional.

Pro Tip: Avoid any risks and work with a professional advertising agency. You will learn from their practice, and they will make sure there’s no risk in your ad placement

Wrap up the message

With all these examples in front of us, we can highlight a number of reasons why marketing efforts can fail:


  • Lack of understanding of your audience 

  • Using an inappropriate tone of voice 

  • Focusing on sales over value 

  • Forgetting to test your ideas 

  • Neglecting emotional connections 

  • Using unclear messages and/or confusing visuals 

  • Using the wrong channels

Instead of these:


  • Think before you post!

  • Know your audience!

  • Avoid being insensitive!

  • Test your ideas!

  • Double-check everything!

Marketing is about connecting with people, not confusing them. Learn from these fails and create marketing that succeeds!

Cristina Matco

Customer Success Manager

I absolutely love embracing new opportunities and connecting with people. It gives me the chance to analyze, create, and work for hours on end until I'm completely satisfied with my work. Paying attention to the details is key because it's the little things that truly make all the difference.