4  Miserably Failed Marketing Campaigns of the Decade

Here are the top 5 marketing campaigns that failed miserably in recent years:

  1.  Pepsi ‘Live for Now’ Campaign 

PepsiCo launched a ‘Live for Now’ marketing campaign featuring Kendal Jenner in 2017. The brand pretty much expected it to be all fun and glamorous featuring a famous reality show star but it turned out to be one of the most spectacular marketing fails in history. 

This campaign, intended to appeal to younger consumers, received widespread criticism for appropriating social and political movements and trivializing their messages.

Though Pepsi’s intention to symbolize its product as a unifying force is appreciable but the outcome of this campaign was not much fun to see.

What was the result of this campaign? An OUTRAGE!

Jenner joined a protest and offered a police officer a can of Pepsi…

That scene could have worked 5-10 years ago, maybe?

But in today’s culture of everyday anger and outrage, Pepsi, what were you thinking? 

The commercial was criticized for trivializing the Black Lives Matter movement and was quickly pulled off the e air. Pepsi received lots of burns, online shames, and backlash.

It was definitely a nightmare for the company and the video was taken off the official site pretty quickly. 

  1. Heineken’s ‘Lighter is Better’ Campaign

Lighter is better.. Heinekens, why.. What were you thinking? 

Once again, in this current climate where some people get offended 24/7, “Lighter is Better’ sure finds its audience to offend.

This campaign featured a bartender sliding a bottle of Heineken down the bar. The bottle sailed smoothly (lightly is probably more suitable for the campaign) until a lady grabbed the bottle and admired the low-calorie content

That was it. That was the message of the campaign: low-calorie beer for skinny people or people who don’t want to gain too much weight from drinking beer..

Well, what could go wrong? The campaign was accused of being racist and tone-deaf. 

Critics of the campaign said  Heinekens supported fair complexion over dark ones and considered the campaign racist for using the tagline, ‘sometimes, lighter is better’. 

“Racist curling” was suggested. 


Heinekens (should I call them beers for racists now?) bucked under pressure.  They took down the commercial and said the feedback would be used for better future campaigns. 

Watch  Heineken’s racist commercial.

If you are offended, I congratulate you for finding racism in a beer commercial.

If you are not offended, I think you might just be normal. 

  1. Mcdonald’s ‘Pay with Lovin’ Campaign 

In 2015, Mcdonalds launched the ‘Pay with Lovin’’ campaign which offered customers the chance to win prizes if they agreed to pay for their food with “lovin'” instead of money. 

It sounds fun, right?

Unfortunately, the campaign was criticized for being confusing and manipulative, and many customers reported being frustrated when they didn’t receive the promised prizes.

In my opinion, the campaign failed because 

  1. It may have been difficult for customers to participate in the campaign, either because they did not know about it or because the campaign did not align with their purchasing habits. 
  2. The campaign may not have effectively communicated its message or generated enough buzz to drive participation. 
  3. It may not have been well-executed or may have faced unforeseen challenges that hindered its success. 

Pay with Lovin was launched with the intention to spread love and kindness but the campaign backfired and was not much liked by customers across the globe. 

In other words, the campaign failed UX.

4. Dolce Gabbana’s ‘Eat with Chopsticks’ Campaign

Dolce & Gabbana’s “Eating with Chopsticks” campaign was a series of advertisements that featured a model struggling to eat Italian food, such as spaghetti and pizza, with chopsticks.

Well, you can’t eat a pizza with a chopstick..

The campaign, launched in China, intended to appeal to Chinese consumers but it provoked public outrage in the country. 

Recalling the ad, it was widely criticized for being culturally insensitive and promoting negative stereotypes about Chinese people.

Again, tone-deaf ad! And hence a failure. The campaign was eventually pulled and the company issued an apology for any offense that it may have caused.

The campaign was called out as being out of touch with Chinese culture and customs.  

Many people felt that it was an attempt by the company to capitalize on the growing Chinese market without understanding or respecting the country’s cultural differences. 

No offense to Chinese people, my people…the ad did not offend me. The model was very cute. 

Dolce apologized. 


There have been many examples of big-budget marketing campaigns that have failed miserably. Such campaigns demonstrate the importance of careful planning and sensitivity in marketing, as well as the potential consequences of missteps in high-profile campaigns. 

It’s quite hard to “read the room” now because, as a good friend of mine says, “throw a stick and you are going to offend someone.”

Do your best to not make a mistake. 

Take care of what you are trying to portray to your audience because one mistake can put your company’s reputation at stake and make you lose millions of dollars in one go!