Over the years, well-known brands like Red Bull and Pepsi have created the most successful marketing campaigns. With slogans like ‘Red Bull gives you wings’ and campaigns as ‘come alive with the Pepsi generation’, these companies created and designed the most iconic advertisements in the world. But even the greatest names, created floppy campaigns in the past and every year more failing advertisements can be added to the list of unfortunate campaigns. Take a look at the most remarkable failures.

1. Malaysia Airlines

Do you remember the catastrophic flight MH-17? The Australian PR department surely didn’t. They came up with the brilliant idea to launch a campaign where you can win free airline tickets by filling in your bucket list. Yes, that list you make with activities you want to do before you die… Not the smartest move for a company of which two airplanes crashed in the same year.

2. Red Bull

In 2011, Red Bull launched their ‘Red Bull Creation Campaign’. In subways, posters with QR codes were spread, so that people could go easily to the promotion page. They especially choose the subway, in order to reach a lot of people. Unfortunately there is poor internet connection underground...

3. Nike

That marketing can be painful and somewhat uncomfortable, showed the campaign from Nike. They advertised with the Paralympic champion Oscar Pistorius also known as the ‘Blade Runner’. The athlete is often associated with the murder on his girlfriend, which he killed with a pistol. In 2011 Nike advertised with a campaign which showed a picture of Oscar with the line ‘I am the bullet in the room’ and ‘Just do it’. This example shows us that even campaigns with the best intentions sometimes can turn out unfortunate.

4. Lidl

That you shouldn’t underestimate the power of social media proves Lidl in the Netherlands. They launched a Twitter campaign with the hashtag ‘#luxevooriedereen’. For every tweet with the hashtag, they promised to donate 5 food packages to the food bank. Lidl had to donate over a thousand packages within an hour, so they decided to shut down the action after 24 hours. This campaign has costed Lidl more than 200.000 euros, pretty sure they have exceeded their budget for this campaign.

5. Pepsi

That marketing campaigns can deliver the wrong message, proves Pepsi. The company tried to translate their slogan ‘come alive with the Pepsi Generation’ in Chinese, but the outcome was somewhat dubious. ‘Pepsi gets your ancestors back from the grave’ was certainly not the message Pepsi had in mind for their Chinese customers.     

6. McDonald’s

The company started the hashtag #McDstories on Twitter and they hoped that people would share their positive experiences with the company. Turns out that people used the hashtag to complain and share their bad experiences with the fast food company. McDonald’s stopped the campaign after two days, but people were still using the hashtag to share their bad experiences.

7. NS

Last but not least, a failed campaign from our beloved transport provider in the Netherlands. The NS has often been in the news concerning the many delays of their trains. In 2014, the company was also trending topic, but this time for a totally different reason. The company offered a free train journey to the Anne Frank musical in their ‘Spoordeelwinkel’. Combining train rides with a person like Anne Frank from the Second World War wasn’t the most strategic choice from NS.