Five cringeworthy marketing own goals

JOHANNESBURG – Dove cosmetics brand is currently facing a huge backlash over a racist video advertisement, which shows a black woman taking off her shirt to reveal a white woman underneath.

The company has apologised for the racially insensitive advertisement, saying it “missed the mark”. But, it is not the first time Dove has been in trouble for the same kind of marketing.

And, Dove is not the only company that has scored epic own goals with failed advertising campaigns in recent times. 

Here are some of the companies who may want to consider changing marketing managers:

1. Dove

Before the black woman changing into a white woman controversy, Dove was previously accused of racist marketing. 

In 2015, Dove was called out for the way in which it labelled different skin colours on its bottles of self-tan lotion. It described the lotion as “fair to normal skin” and “normal to dark skin”. Many social media users pointed out that Dove appeared to be saying dark skin is not normal.

Dove responded by saying the offending bottles were part of an old batch, and all its self-tan lotions were since labelled: “Fair to Medium” and “Medium to Dark.”



2. Nivea

In March 2017, the beauty brand launched a campaign in the Middle East for its “Invisible Black and White” deodorant, which is meant to leave no stains on either white or black clothing. The slogan for the campaign “White is purity” not only sparked a massive international backlash on social media, pro-Nazi groups picked up on the tagline, claiming Nivea was supportive of their cause.

A spokesperson for Nivea’s owners Beiersdorf released a statement apologising to anyone who may have taken offence, and stating that the advertisement had been withdrawn.
“Diversity and equal opportunity are crucial values of Nivea: the brand represents diversity, tolerance, and equal opportunity. We value difference. Direct or indirect discrimination must be ruled out in all decisions by, and in all areas of our activities.”


3. Bic pens

The Bic pen brand had hoped to send an empowering message on Women’s Day in 2015. Instead, its campaign made international headlines for its sexist tagline.

An image of a smiling woman, dressed in a suit with her arms folded was accompanied by the tagline:  “Look like a girl, act like a lady, think like a man, work like a boss #HappyWomensDay.”

Customers took issue with multiple parts of the message. “Look like a girl” was interpreted by some as encouraging the sexualisation of children while many questioned what exactly the conservative “act like a lady” was supposed to mean. Furthermore, “think like a man” was slammed for suggesting that women should be demure while at the same time fashioning their thought patterns to those of men, which the message suggests is superior to those of women.

Bic made a further blunder in its initial apology. The company deleted the original ad post and said it had taken the quote from a blog on “women in business” and was meant “in the most empowering way possible and in no way derogatory towards women”.

But social media users were having none of it and Bic had to remove that Facebook post and replace it with a fresh apology: “Let’s start out by saying we’re incredibly sorry for offending everybody – that was never our intention, but we completely understand where we’ve gone wrong. This post should never have gone out. The feedback you have given us will help us ensure that something like this will never happen again, and we appreciate that”.

This was not Bic’s first marketing campaign that infuriated women. In 2012, the company was derided for launching a pink pen, supposedly designed to fit comfortably in the hands of women. Social media users incessantly mocked the new pen, and even celebrities, like talk show host Ellen, made fun of it.


4. OUTsurance

Local insurance company OUTsurance made headlines for all the wrong reasons with a Fathers’ Day advertisement in June 2017. The company was accused of being racist and anti-black for a television advert that showed a number of almost exclusively white fathers doing positive activities with their sons.

Twitter users were quick to point out that the advertisement could be interpreted as saying only white men made good fathers.

The company acknowledged the advert was “demographically inappropriate” and blamed a junior employee for the “unintentional oversight”.

5. Pepsi Kendall Jenner

One of the biggest international marketing blunders of the year has to go to soft drinks manufacturer, Pepsi. Kendall Jenner (of Kardashians-fame) and Pepsi were accused of undermining and even mocking the Black Lives Matter movement in an advertisement called the “Live For Now Moments Anthem.”

It shows the model joining a group of protestors advocating for peace. Jenner is seen handing a police officer a can of Pepsi. The officer then smiles and the protestors cheer.

Furious consumers slammed Jenner for using her white privilege to commodify the struggles of minorities. The image of Jenner approaching the officers recalled an iconic photograph of a female protestor being confronted by heavily armoured riot police during a Black Lives Matter protest in Baton Rouge after Alton Sterling was fatally shot by police.

Pepsi pulled the advertisement and apologised. “We did not intend to make light of any serious issue. We are pulling the content and halting any further rollout. We also apologise for putting Kendall Jenner in this position.”

Jenner herself, however, only recently addressed the issue, in an episode of the reality show Keeping Up With the Kardashians. The tearful 21-year-old is seen telling her sister, Kim, that it has been a very difficult experience for her. “I would never purposely hurt someone, ever… “The fact that I would offend other people or hurt other people was definitely not the intent. And that’s what got me the most, is that I would have ever made anyone else upset.”


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