Ten things we’re glad we didn’t do as marketing consultants in 2018

None of us can get it right all the time, but here are ten things Driving Growth is glad it wasn’t responsible for in 2018, and would like to think it would have handled differently…

  1. Slimming down Weight Watchers name to WW, which looks okay when you write it down, but doesn’t sound so good for an organisation focused on weight loss, when you pronounce it: ‘Double you, double you.’ Was the brand manager on leave that week?
  2. Another PR agency nightmare after H&M ran ads featuring a black child wearing a hoodie with the words ‘coolest monkey in the jungle,’ which prompted calls of racism, questions from UK government Ministers, boycotts by its clothing designers, and store closures in South Africa.
  3. Another tone-deaf TV ad from Heineken that ran in the US, Australia and New Zealand, promoted ‘sometimes lighter is better’ to market its light beer. In the ad, a bartender spots a female patron gazing at her wine glass. He opens a beer bottle and slides it down the bar. On the way to her, the bottle skates past two black women and a black man before stopping at the wine glass. The woman, who has lighter skin, inspects the bottle. Chance the Rapper and his more than seven million Twitter followers led the charge in calling the ad racist, and Heineken acknowledged it ‘missed the mark.’
  4. Mastercard stuck its foot in its own mouth with a campaign to donate the equivalent of 10,000 meals to the UN World Food Programme for children in Latin America for every goal scored by Lionel Messi and Neymar, two of the FIFA World Cup’s biggest stars. Many consumers were appalled and said Mastercard should just give out the meals. The campaign was scrapped.
  5. Marriott Hotels risked further expansion in the People’s Republic after it listed ‘Tibet, Hong Kong, Macao and Taiwan’ as separate countries on a customer survey, even though China claims sovereignty over all four. Chinese authorities shut down Marriott’s China website and app for a week. To top that, Marriott suffered one of the largest data breaches in history, affecting half a billion clients at its Starwood properties, and is now facing a class-action lawsuit.
  6. Facebook. Period.
  7. Dolce & Gabbana should have fired its creative agency after they ran a series of ads depicting a Chinese woman struggling to eat Italian food with chopsticks, which were slammed by consumers with boycotts and accusations of racism. The situation went from bad to worse, when derogatory social content from one of the two partners was reposted. Dolce & Gabbana subsequently cancelled its Shanghai fashion show.
  8. Amazon Prime originally manufactured its own 36-hour long Prime Day four years ago, to boost the number of Amazon Prime members who spend more on the site than non-members. It worked. But this year, a broken landing page and links that sent customers to an error page cost the e-commerce giant an estimated US$1.2 million a minute during the first few hours of the promotion. Oops. Anyway, all’s well that ends well, the Seattle-based retailer still sold more than 100 million products on its made-up holiday.
  9. Weirdly, Burger King introduced the first dog bone featuring its flame-grilled taste. Called the Dogpper, the bone-shaped treat was positioned as a dog-friendly solution for customers who wanted to enjoy their food at home without interruption from pets.
  10. Possibly the most bogus brand positioning of 2018 came from Michael Kors Holdings. They wanted a new brand name after buying Jimmy Choo and Versace. Capri Holdings was inspired by, yes, the island of Capri. Their statement said that its ‘spectacular three rock formation, formed over 200 million years ago, is symbolic of the timeless heritage and strong foundation that is at the core of each of the three founder-led brands in our global fashion luxury group…’

Happy 2019.