Hit or miss — A look at controversial marketing campaigns of our times

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Numerous brands are coming up with marketing strategies to grab the attention of the public. Nevertheless, marketing campaigns with the ‘shock value’ are either met with awe or hatred towards the brand. We have compiled a list of controversial campaigns that were either a hit or miss and how they affected the brand image and sales.

Nike’s ‘Believe in Something’ Campaign

Athletes were always a part of Nike’s marketing campaigns. In the recent campaign, Nike featured NFL star Colin Kaepernick as the ambassador. In the ad, Kaepernick’s face is seen with the caption ‘believe in something’. Although, this seems like a motivational message, an underlying storm with Kaepernick made this campaign controversial.

Kaepernick is a known activist for opposing police brutality against the African-American population in the USA. He would kneel instead of standing up for the national anthems played during the games. A huge brand name like Nike, featuring a controversial star in a world-wide campaign was seen as a massive risk. But, opposed to theory, the ‘believe in something’ campaign caused a positive impact among the public and an increase in sales for Nike!

Gilette’s ‘We Believe’ campaign

Gilette’s long established tagline ‘the best a man can get’ was recently switched to ‘we believe’ in the light of #MeToo campaign. With a majority of the women’s population sharing stories of abuse, harassment and hatred they face in day-to-day life, the #MeToo campaign took the world by storm. Gilette offered its two cents by showcasing the trending topic in their ads. Instead of promoting the typical ‘American’ man, Gilette showed a diverse set of men and their multi-dimensional image of the modern man. The ad encouraged men to be the best version of them by undertaking roles that do not support sexism in their everyday lives. Even though this illustration of men that go against traditional male stereotypes met with mixed reviews, this did not affect the brand’s image or the sales negatively. This has led to brands not being afraid to incorporate modern topics in their classic ads.

Although, controversial marketing campaigns dig in society’s good heart of acceptance, sometimes they do not work out in the way the brands would have liked them too. Some campaigns bring out the worst in the brands that may not be well-received among the public.

Pepsi’s ‘Live for Now’ campaign

Pepsi is a brand that set the benchmark for many successful marketing campaigns throughout the world. But, its recent campaign in 2017 featuring US model Kendall Jenner was the recipient of negative backlash throughout the world.

In the ad, Kendall is seen handing over a Pepsi can to a police officer during a protest by an ethnically diverse group of people. The ad sparked controversy as the protest resembled the ‘Black Lives Matter’, a real life protest opposing police brutality against the African-American population in the US. The negative backlash resulted in Pepsi deleting the video and issuing a public apology.

Dove’s ‘whitewashing’ misfire

Dove’s ‘real beauty’ campaign has been a pioneer concerning brand marketing. The campaign that features ‘real’ women in their ads has been widely accepted positively by many people around the globe. But, there was an unusual shift in their marketing strategy when Dove decided to broadcast a controversial ad which demonstrated ‘whitewashing’.

The ad featured a black woman who transformed into a white woman while removing her shirt. This led to a lot of outrage among the brand’s supporters online. The brand was deemed racist and many people started online hashtags to boycott Dove’s products. This misfire was the first of its kind for Dove, as the brand issued a public apology and removed the advertisement.

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