business mistakes

Avoiding Offensive Advertising Blunders

We live in a world where “political correctness” can be a divisive topic for some. While you may not feel the need to coddle all of your customers in regard to your business, it will be healthier for your company if you avoid such missteps and avoid offense where you can. Doing so spares your business from negative criticism, or a potential loss if your marketing campaign fails. Here are our tips for avoiding such offensive blunders in your advertising efforts!

Get Feedback

This is probably the biggest way to stop an offensive ad or campaign from seeing the light of day. Put your slogans and product designs by multiple viewers from multiple backgrounds. Is your product or design about relationships or for women? You probably should have a woman look at it. Doing so helps avoid the problem seen in this ad.

Image result for bloomingdale eggnog ad

Bloomingdale advertisement

If this advertisement had gone past a woman for feedback, for example, it likely wouldn’t have gotten any farther. A woman (or anyone who has had to think about assault) would easily catch the implication of drugging someone to coerce them into romantic or sexual activity. Also, a woman might have noticed that the man in the advertisement doesn’t look especially friendly, and may come across as creepy. Imagine how much flak (and money!) the company could have saved themselves by letting a woman see the ad first.

Getting feedback can also help you dodge bullets with race, age, gender, and other different backgrounds. It may not matter if people from different backgrounds are on the marketing or design team; find someone in your company to give it a glance!

Do Your Research

If you have an idea that includes a joke or comment about women, gender, race, or any similar group, do your research on that group. You may miss some of the implications of stereotypes or other seemingly humorous/clever matter at first, but research could tell you if your “joke” will come across as off-color or rude.

Lose the Intentional Insults

The old adage (“If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything”) is apt in all walks of life. Marketing and advertising are not exempt from this rule. You’re free to use humor, but avoid campaigns and ads that are meant to insult.

Here’s one example:

PETA ad

While it’s a memorable message, it strikes a chord for the wrong reasons. Not only does it attack viewers who are overweight; it implies anyone who is not a vegetarian is overweight, and therefore a whale.

If your message includes such an insult, or you’re told that your slogan comes across as insulting, strike it before you alienate your audience!

Keep it Clean

Burger King ad

A brief look at this ad should tell you how Burger King flubbed this campaign. This advertisement from their 2010 Singapore campaign might have been targeted for adult men. However, they neglected the rest of their audience–which includes people of all ages. Making a dirty joke like this one alienated people who either found this rude or didn’t want their kids around such ads. If your market includes people of all genders and ages, it’s going to be better not to make similar jokes or visual references. And even if your target audience would find this funny, be aware that suggestive ads like this will make their way around the Internet, and you may suffer backlash.

 

Some say that any publicity is good publicity. But when it comes to our social media-driven world and the power of the dollar, that’s not always the case. Spare yourself the waste of money and the need to apologize or pull an advertisement. It’s better not to do it in the first place.

3 Business Moves to Regret

Business aren’t infallible. CEOs tend to make as many mistakes as any employee of a company. Some of these mistakes, though, can be rather costly. These errors in judgment may have cost companies millions–or even billions.

Google It

Years ago, Google was in trouble. They had, shockingly, arrived too late on the search engine scene, and they struggled with their competitors. So founders Sergey Brin and Larry Page began looking to sell Google to a company called Excite. And CEO George Bell, when offered Google for $750,000, said no.

Depending on how you look at it, this was a very good move for Google and a very bad move for Bell. In the following years, very, very few search engines can stand up to Google. Their name has even entered our lexicon as a synonym for “to look up.” And Excite is nowhere to be seen.

Monday Night Football

In 1970, NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle came up with a weekly TV program we now know as “Monday Night Football.” He offered the chance to air weekly football games to CBS and NBC, two of the three biggest networks. But both of them balked. They didn’t dare move their popular programs, like The Doris Day Show, off of Monday night! That would be a ridiculous move!

ABC, however, didn’t think so. They took a chance on the NFL. Now, over 10 million viewers tune in on Monday Night Football. Granted, it’s now on ESPN. But for a long time ABC couldn’t help but enjoy their wins while CBS and NBC made quite the fumble.

J. C. Penny is not Apple

Ron Johnson came to J. C. Penny in 2011, hoping to breathe new life into the company. Johnson had wild success with Apple stores, and hoped to use some of those same tricks on the big chain. He began by removing the coupons and sales under the claim that these were “fake prices,” trying to be more “real” with their customer base. This would work with Apple products. But, unfortunately, J. C. Penny is not Apple.

J. C. Penny customers liked the feeling of saving money. Buying from this store, unlike Apple, is not a status symbol. People who shop at J. C. Penny generally look for deals that fit in their budgets, rather than shiny trinkets. And the younger generation wasn’t having it, either. They were going to online businesses, like Amazon.

The board swiftly discharged Johnson. Johnson still believes this model would have worked had the company kept him on. However, this is not likely, as the company’s stock has fallen by 85% since then.

 

What can we learn from these companies? One, that no business is perfect. Every company will make mistakes. Second, it’s important to learn that sometimes, risks are worth a second look. You may want to take them. Or, in the case of trying to change your model drastically, perhaps you should avoid them.