Creative & Design

When brands fail, they really fail!

24 January 2023 4 min read
Written by

Robin Bryant

When brands fail, they really fail!

We’ve all seen it before. A brand that was once strong and thriving suddenly finds itself in the doldrums. It happens to even the best of brands. But when it happens, it’s important to take a step back and analyse what went wrong. Here are five common reasons why brands fail: 

1. They lose touch with their customers. 
2. Their marketing becomes dated. 
3. They become complacent.
4. They make too many changes too quickly. 
5. They forget what made them successful in the first place. 

Take a look at each of these factors and see if any apply to your brand. If so, take steps to rectify the situation before it’s too late!

The case of Pepsi and Kendall Jenner

The recent ad campaign involving Pepsi and celebrity Kendall Jenner stirred up considerable controversy. Following its release, many accused Pepsi of mis-appropriating cultural and social movements to hawk their brand. Not only that, but a narrative from the ad seemed to imply that the soda company was attempting to downplay very real social problems as shallow disruptions that could be solved with a soft drink. As outrage quickly grew, Pepsi removed the ad from circulation and released a statement apologising for any hurt or misstep taken. This situation serves as an excellent example of how even well-respected multinational companies can make very public mistakes in perception and messaging – and underscores the importance of understanding both public opinion and the goals of the intended audience.

H&M’s ‘Coolest monkey in the jungle’ hoodie blunder

H&M’s hoodie blunder reignited a long history of racism and Eurocentric imagination in marketing. The company was widely criticised for its careless use of a black child wearing a hoodie printed with ‘Coolest monkey in the jungle’, as it appeared to perpetuate damaging and inaccurate stereotypes: in reality, all people – regardless of their complexion or origin – are equally amazing. This oversight reflects a dangerous attitude towards race that still remains pervasive and persistent: many corporations need to prioritise inclusion, diversity and accurate representation in their campaigns and strategies from the outset, not just after something goes wrong.

Dove’s ‘real beauty’ campaign backfires

Dove’s attempt at redefining beauty was met with staunch opposition when their ‘real beauty’ campaign backfired. After releasing an ad depicting a diverse array of women, but with only seven skin tones available in their new body wash range, many accused the company of insincerity and tokenism. This has led to an outcry from consumers who believe that companies have no right to claim that certain groups are ‘unworthy’ of representation unless explicitly stated otherwise. Companies should be aware of the dangers implicit within ambiguous messaging if they truly desire to promote inclusion and diversity.

Nivea’s ‘white is purity’ ad stirs up controversy

Nivea’s ‘white is purity’ advertisement has caused international uproar. The skin care giant apologised and pulled the ad, but the damage to their reputation was already done. This incident serves as an important reminder to companies of all sizes that careful consideration should be taken when crafting and releasing public messages: slogans should remain respectful, appropriate and mindful of people’s varied backgrounds and experiences. It’s essential that advertisers heed this lesson in order to steer clear of offending any potential customers.

Why brands need to be careful with their messaging

Now more than ever, it’s essential for brands to pay attention to the messages they’re conveying. Without careful consideration and planning, brands may succumb to miscommunication that could have potential negative outcomes. As consumer tastes become more diverse, brand messaging must also remain attuned to the relevant climate, responding accordingly with thoughtful communication. Missteps in messaging could open up a company or brand to public scrutiny, costing them customers and damaging their reputation. With all of this at stake, it’s imperative for brands to make the extra effort in ensuring their messaging will resonate accurately with their audience. 

Above all, companies need to use this information to shape their communication strategies going forward. With an understanding of the consequences of miscommunication, brands can begin to evaluate their messaging from a holistic perspective that takes into account the needs and interests of their customers. From there, they can create campaigns that are thoughtful, inclusive and accurate in representing their audience’s values – ultimately leading to more successful marketing endeavours down the road. By carefully assessing what messages resonate with different audiences, companies can ensure that they will be delivering effective communications free from any hurtful or offensive connotations. In doing so, brands will be taking one step towards creating a more open-minded and equal society for all.

The importance of cultural sensitivity training for marketing teams

With marketing becoming increasingly globalised, cultural sensitivity is a critical skill for marketing teams to develop. Understanding the shared values of multiple cultures puts teams in a better position to tailor campaigns and messages that align with cultural nuances. Cultural sensitivity training should be used by marketers to learn how to effectively interact with people in an international market, as any offensive message could damage a brand’s reputation and hinder success. Cultural sensitivity training also helps remove unconscious bias from campaigns and allows marketers to make decisions from an informed point of view. In order for brands to maximise their potential in a global setting, cultural sensitivity training should be made part of the corporate culture.

Ultimately, companies should strive to promote inclusion and diversity through their marketing efforts. Messages that are respectful, appropriate and mindful of people’s varied backgrounds and experiences can go a long way in cultivating successful campaigns. By taking the time to assess potential messages from all angles and using cultural sensitivity training for their teams, companies can avoid any miscommunications or hurtful connotations – allowing them to reach out effectively across international markets without any backlash. Doing so will enable businesses to provide positive messaging that promotes understanding and acceptance among different cultures for generations to come. 

Final thoughts…

While these cases are certainly cautionary tales, there’s also much to learn in terms of the progress that’s been made by some brands since those blunders. For example, since the Kendall Jenner débacle, Pepsi has worked with its creative teams to exercise more cultural sensitivity in creating content. Similarly, H&M released a statement of apology as part of an effort to explain their misstep and reaffirm their commitment to diversity and inclusion in all aspects of their business. These examples demonstrate how crucial it is that marketing teams receive the training and guidance necessary for avoiding the pitfalls of reputation management that can result from a lack of understanding or consideration for diverse cultures. Ultimately, businesses have come a long way in terms of setting guidelines and expectations for culturally conscious messaging – now it’s just a matter of making sure those messages get heard loud and clear across all audiences!

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